Rare is the artist that doesn’t occasionally come to grips with the greater questions of life and society, and how exactly their works may contribute in a significant way to the world at large.
Creative’s Guilt, some call it, this sinking feeling one gets from time-to-time, usually when forced to confront mortality or when reading about the evils of the world in the morning edition. Why make film/art at all when children are going hungry in the 3rd world and puppies need rescuing at your local shelter?
Defenders of the arts will quickly move to proclaim that creating artistic works is essential to any society to perpetuate and continually evaluate its culture through images and words, and it is hard to disagree with this perspective.
Films, in particular have a historical resonance to them, even when they are awful. Because many films and documentaries will engage relevant issues, styles, ideologies of their period, they end up in some way encapsulating the essence of the cultural context inside of which they were written and produced. They will contain contextual language, fashion, and engage relevant subjects.
History books are concerned with timelines and precise events, but films offer the opportunity to speak to the present while also acknowledging the past, and informing (or even influencing) the future. By virtue of the great output of films you will also be afforded a massive range of perspectives on said history. You have the chance to relive the emotions, joys and worries of the time, something historians cannot really bottle for later revision.
But why is this important to consider at all when engaged in filmmaking?
The answer is rather simple. If you understand the narrative power of film, its almost unique ability to capture and communicate ideas, then you realize that you may have the opportunity to speak to people on a scale that governments would envy. Advertizers and marketers may push us to consume in one way or another, but films can uphold a culture’s story, they can even speak beyond the grave and warn against foolish mistakes. The possibilities are truly vast.
Does this mean that every film you make has to be a socio-political discourse or that you have to have a greater message every time you film something? Of course not. This is about embracing a lifestyle in you art that ecourages to think and evaluate every scene you design, every character you invent. It’s a way to make your work fulfilling and to contribute in some fashion to your culture’s narrative, and in the most successful cases, a way to change the way society looks at the world.