Hate thy neighbor
and prey on those to persecute
WINNER: BEST SHORT DRAMA (CFIFF 2018)
This short film dives headlong into the gray area of polarizing topics: abortion, gun control and their mutual goal to save lives.
Like so many modern American towns, Avery Idaho is a place plagued by polarized politics that turn neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and split families.
Good intentions go awry when the lives of two families intersect one day in the early 90's outside a women's health clinic. Unaware of the lasting effects of that day, now, twenty-five years later, our characters find themselves in an America that has never been more politically divided since the civil war. These two families are about to start a civil war of their own as they fail to show empathy for each other, choosing instead to only focus on differences.
After the inaguration of Donald Trump I found myself politically angsty to say the least. I didn’t know what I could or should contribute as an artist, but I knew I had to say something.
What can one do to make a positive statement? As an artist there are two ways to go. Give people a complete distraction from the madness and entertain them. Or… challenge the status quo by contributing a statement to help people gain empathy for one another and hopefully open up a conversation. I often find myself choosing the latter.
After attending my first protest and capturing many inspiring photos, I decided to write a short script called Spread Eagle.
Spread Eagle was about an evil conservative fascist gynecologist who performs abortions, then re-inseminates his patients so he can have a continual client base. I bet, regardless of your politics, that little elevator pitch made you scratch your head. All projects need to start somewhere.
I knew this shocking visceral concept would pack a punch. I want it to pack a punch. A wake up call. It wasn’t time to turn the other cheek for four years as the country was systematically being dismantled. Living with the daily assaults on my sanity made me the most uncomfortable and unsettled I’d ever felt, so my unconscious artistic mind wanted to manifest something that would make others as uncomfortable as I was.
My artistic intention was to show how people often contribute to the very problems that they say they’re against. For example how "pro-lifers" often vote for war mongering "anti-life" candidates. I wanted to show how often times our good intentions are manipulated for political gain and in the end we all end up loosing.
My initial concept for the film came from a place of immense judgement. I doubt that a story like Spread Eagle would do any good. It would outrage conservatives, make liberals ponder… and probably gross out most people on both sides. It would only further the already intense divide in my home country.
I started to search for potential collaborators hoping to find someone to bounce ideas off and fix the issues that were abundant in original treatment.
One night at my friend's apartment in Studio City I once again dived into my elevator pitch. What transpired was the epic collaboration session that I was hoping for. Ideas came so rapidly that to this day I’m still not sure which ideas were mine and which were his, but here we are 6 months later with a finished product that we’re proud to release to the world, Avery Road.
After that night, my friend and collaborator, filmmaker & animator Eric J. Wright, joined the project as producer. He brought on board screenwriter Brigid May and the current film barely resembles my initial inaccessible concept.
In my experience, many collaborations turn to conflict because, like in politics, people can't agree. People want to pull the same project in opposite directions and everyone feels their direction is right. However, amazing things can happen when you open up, listen and trust those you collaborate with.
The creation of Avery Road was not without it’s many talks to collaborate on hammering out the story, cast, editing, etc., yet for one of the first times in my directorial career I experienced a level of collaboration that was uniquely pleasant. We were working together.
We knew that we wanted to make a film where people on both sides of the issues of abortion and gun control would walk away feeling like we had empathy for their point of view. Hopefully, in the process it would feel so good to be understood that our film would encourage a dialog rather than continue a pattern of alienation. We wanted to create a scenario where empathy could grow and viewers could realize that despite good intentions shit still goes wrong. We need to look at why shit keeps going wrong and transform as a society, rather than joining an uninformed manipulated lynching mob.
Art can be many things. Expressions of ones own narcissism, cleverly crafted propaganda, ones attempt to be understood, or what I think most films are… entertaining distractions from unpleasant realities. However, I like to watch, and make, films that have a good spirit, explore underrepresented topics and remind me of how connected we all are.