Ethical Filmmaking 101

events industry Feb 08, 2021

Please note that WMM NEVER wanted to become the arbiters of taste and decency for its community. We HATE censorship of any kind.  However, given the times we are living in, we also feel that artistic guidelines for the community that we want to have and participate in, are needed.

Above all, we feel if you operate with the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would like to have done unto yourself,” we want to think that you will never have a problem with a piece that you bring to We Make Movies. However, because everything in our world now needs to be spelled out, and mutual respect and decency are no longer givens in our society, here is our official policy on what is and is not acceptable in the We Make Movies community.

We Make Movies holds the following truths to be self evident:

  • You have a right to the freedom of speech and the freedom to explore challenging ideas and subject matter.
  • You have a right to develop your voice as a creator.
  • You have a right to respectful feedback and criticism.
  • You have a right to your own imagination and the freedom to write about any character or culture you choose.
  • You have a right to voice your concerns with others’ work so long as it avoids personal attacks and respects the artist’s innate humanity and dignity.
  • You have a right to have your artistic work separated from your personal life.
  • You have the right to make mistakes and still remain part of the community, so long as such “mistakes” do not infringe on others’ rights and liberties, do not violate our stance on “hate speech,” and do not break any governmental laws.
  • You have a right to mutual respect, courtesy, and cooperation and a supportive community that wants to see your work pushed upwards.

How Would Hate Speech Be Defined?

WMM understands that a term like “Hate Speech” can be subjective and hard to quantify. The WMM community understands that the spirit of this definition is to foster constructive dialog, empathy, and mutual respect. To that end, this definition may evolve over time as societal norms adjust and revelations are made.

WMM defines “hate speech” as forms of art or discussion rooted in the unwarranted dehumanization or denigration of other groups of people based on race, gender, orientation, religion, political stance, or identity. It does not apply to objective pieces of art that address provocative, yet verifiable historic or scientific facts. 

WMM realizes there are forms of satire and comedy that address provocative topics in a manner that could be construed as “hate speech.” WMM recognizes that these forms of art are important, and as much as possible will strive to judge and ascertain such items based on the societal norms of the time. Where necessary, a review board comprising a diverse group of members and/or advisors from a wide variety of beliefs, will review such works and provide rulings that meet the standards of freedom of expression upon which WMM is founded.  

With That Said, Full Stop:

WMM is in opposition to the following pieces coming through its workshops and will not knowingly promote the following work through its channels:

  • Pieces that glorify rape or pedophilia, or portray them in a gratuitous way.
  • Stories that clearly promote violence against or advocate for the subjugation or persecution of a specific race, faith, gender, or way of life.
  • Stories that actively encourage violence, rioting, or the destruction of property against any country, institution, people, gender, or way of life as a call to action.
  • Stories that gratuitously use a known racial/gender/faith-based slur with no discernible artistic merit or value.
  • Stories that are pornographic in nature, which are defined by WMM as stories that contain extended sexual interludes containing full frontal nudity that do not advance the story in a discernible way.  

A notable exception to the above criteria are pieces explicitly denoted as satire in the tradition of 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, A Modest Proposal, and countless others. WMM feels strongly that dissent in any free and diverse society is needed, and should be encouraged through its speech and art. We do not believe in book-burning or the abolishment of ideas because they are too hard for some people to hear. In fact, We Make Movies believes that any good and just society should be confident enough in its own beliefs that it can withstand ideas that challenge the status quo. We do not believe in cancel-culture and we do not believe in repressing ideas or reality—so long as those ideas inherently support a free and just society for ALL.

Exceptions will be made for challenging and controversial social commentary films that push the envelope in the tradition of Apocalypse Now, most Stanley Kubrick Films, and countless others that fearlessly portray the challenges of the human condition in a provocative way.  Distinctions here will be made imperfectly on a case by case basis, and the decisions will largely be made based on the inherent technical and storytelling quality of the work itself. The more professional and nuanced works like these are presented, the more likely WMM will be to take the risk. In these edge cases, WMM feels that audiences need to be confident it is being placed in the hands of a mature storyteller, so amateur technique and lazy storytelling will be grounds for being turned away when it comes to challenging subject matter.  

That said, highly technical works like D.W. Griffifth’s Birth of a Nation or the propaganda of Leni Riefenstahl would still be turned away by the WMM community because the underlying message is inherently hateful.

In all cases, our goal will be to lean towards siding with the artist and free expression over censorship.

WMM feels that art SHOULD challenge people, and that in some cases things that can appear negative or dark can contain larger truths that must be heard in order for humanity to reach its highest good. We do not WANT to censor anything and we know that this conversation is dicey.

To simplify our thinking here, the more complicated a maneuver you attempt to pull off in a film, the more training this requires, and the more this necessitates the performer/artist to have to “stick the landing.”

In the event that a piece navigates a difficult grey area, the artist/writer will be allowed to offer an artistic statement designed to better frame the artist’s personal perspective on the story they have chosen to tell. In addition to this, in the event that WMM decides to turn away a piece on any of the above grounds, the artist will receive a statement from the WMM board that will be allowed to be made public and transparent by the artist on any platform that the artist will also be entitled to appeal with a written argument.

Written by Sam Mestman & Ron Dawson


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