Rose A. Dyson Ed.D.
Consultant in Media Education

Just as the 2007 International Film Festival opened in Toronto, the city’s acting film commissioner, Peter Finestone, announced a crisis facing the local screen-based industry.  Spending on major feature films was down 35 percent and commercial production had slipped 65 percent, allegedly due to changing market realities and global competition.

But little in the new strategic plan called for innovative thinking and integration. Instead, it embraced the tired old assumption that what is good for the industry’s bottom line is automatically good for everyone.

Annual contributions from the industry to the economy of any city, province, state or country should be weighed against the costs of tax credits and subsidies; strain on public services such as police supervision during production; inconvenience to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians;  air and noise  pollution from exhaust fumes and simulated gun shots.

Equally important is the continuing erosion of safety in communities, schools, universities and night clubs from the fall-out of violent entertainment. These include youth gang violence, murders, assault against women, abduction and sexual exploitation of children, criminality endemic to entertainment districts, the rising incidence of reckless car racing, theft and the relentless commercial exploitation of children. The latter are not only victims of aggressive marketing of violent entertainment but junk food as well, which contributes to a growing host of physical as well as mental health problems.

On June 9th, 2007, it was reported in the LA Times that the screen body count is piling up in both Hollywood South and North as audience fatigue sets in from an entertainment deluge of crazed killers, wanton vampires and jiggling coeds. Re-inventing and re-investing in these tired old genres is hardly the best way to rejuvenate a sagging industry anywhere in the world.

Similarly, propping up and subsidizing bloody action films, television programs and video games is a shaky justification for more tax based support. In Canada, the Harper Government introduced a bill which has passed through the House of Commons and is now before the Senate. It would eliminate tax credits for extremely violent and pornographic productions deemed not to be in the public interest. This is long overdue and would bring us closer to addressing one of the biggest challenges facing educators and society today – balancing freedom of expression with public safety and well-being.

Film producers everywhere should take a hint from Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, “The 11th Hour” which opened in September, 2007 to sold out audiences across North America. Following on the heels of Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, DiCaprio’s film also underscores the increasing urgency for action on environmental issues.

The primary emphasis is on climate change and the coming energy crisis as symptoms of a much larger problem – our consumer driven, materialistic lifestyles with insatiable appetites for non-renewable, polluting fossil fuels. His credits conclude with a line that the film was produced with the least amount of energy use possible. Clearly, if this concept was embraced throughout the screen-based industries, our collective leap forward toward a sustainable future would be nothing short of remarkable.


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