Skip to comments.Right fights back
Posted on 06/07/2005 1:45:04 PM PDT by Pikamax
Right fights back Conservative filmmakers struggle to make their voices heard amid what they call a hostile Hollywood environment.
By Paul Bond Between the lines
Forget about whether Fox's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" contains vague attacks on the Bush administration -- there are plenty of less-nuanced examples of antagonism toward Republicans in mainstream movies. So says a new breed of politically conservative filmmakers who, tired of waiting for Hollywood executives to give 'em a break, are creating companies to make and distribute their Republican-friendly works. And lest there be doubt about their political agenda, they have given the companies such names as American Pride Films Group and RightSide Video.
Some outnumbered Republican entertainment workers not only yearn for equal access to filmmaking in famously left-leaning Hollywood but also consider themselves at war against a hostile left-wing majority, with battles being waged on the Internet, in books, at film festivals and even in nightclubs (hence a comedy troupe named the Right Stuff). They're even -- gasp! -- organizing in groups like the Hollywood Congress of Republicans, which sponsors luncheons at which celebrities including Ben Stein and Morgan Brittany offer moral support to a like-minded political minority that is sick of being mocked by industry taste-setters.
"Some liberals in the entertainment industry are such schoolyard bullies that even my liberal friends are horrified at their behavior," says Cheryl Rhoads, best known for playing the title role in the 1987 video compilation "The Mother Goose Treasury."
Rhoads is authoring a book about being a conservative in Hollywood, in which she tells stories like one about the time when, on the set of a network TV show, an executive shouted, "Anyone who votes Republican is so fired!"
"If she had said it about homosexuals, there would have been lawsuits," Rhoads says.
Complains Namrata Singh Gujral, who co-founded APFG with Lt. Cmdr. Joe Cooper, a military screenwriting consultant and Naval Reserve pilot who recently was deployed to the Middle East, "I read about President Bush asking Hollywood to help with America's image after the (Sept. 11) terrorist attacks, but I didn't see a flurry of films."
APFG's first project is the $5 million production "Americanizing Shelley," a script Gujral and Cooper shopped around Hollywood before opting to make themselves. Gujral says one executive blanched at the movie's ending because the main character abandons her dislike of the United States, while another dismissed the film with the proclamation, "I'm ashamed to be an American."
APFG is next readying a $25 million movie about the recent conflict in Iraq and a $25 million science fiction film, both of which will portray the U.S. in a favorable light.
"We're nonpartisan, but we're lumped into the Republican Party for being pro-American," Gujral says. "That's unfortunate."
David Goodman created RightSide Video, a unit of his DVD Acquisition and Development Group, last year at about the same time "Fahrenheit 9/11" surpassed $100 million at the U.S. boxoffice and Michael Moore was the darling of the Democratic Party. While attending the American Film Renaissance -- the nation's first conservative film festival -- in Dallas in September, Goodman heard a speech in which film critic and talk-radio host Michael Medved praised the audience of right-leaning filmmakers.
"Several people, holding up finished DVDs in their hands, thanked Medved for his encouragement then complained that they couldn't find distribution," Goodman says. "I stood up and said, 'Here I am.'"
Goodman struck deals at the AFR to distribute the DVDs "The Seeds of Western Civilization," "Mega Fix" and "Is It True What They Say About Ann?" The latter, a documentary helmed by Elinor Burkett and Patrick Wright about best-selling conservative author Ann Coulter, quickly sold more than 10,000 copies at $20 apiece and is on shelves at Barnes & Noble and Borders, among other retailers (though all RightSide titles sell best on the Internet).
While acknowledging that moving a few-thousand copies of a right-leaning DVD in a few months' time will not impress a Hollywood mogul, Goodman notes that sales of his merchandise are consistent.
"I don't have catalog titles and new releases -- just catalog -- and I market it every day," he says.
Goodman was one of 4,000 AFR attendees last year, according to AFR co-founder Jim Hubbard. Several of the two-dozen movies screened there subsequently unspooled at the Liberty Film Festival -- an unrelated event that bills itself as Hollywood's first conservative film festival -- and Hubbard says his event already has spawned a sister festival in Little Rock, Ark., with others on the drawing board in Kansas City, Mo., and Washington.
Winning awards from the Renaissance and Liberty festivals last year was Stephen K. Bannon's documentary "In the Face of Evil: Reagan's War in Word and Deed" from Leo McWatkins Films, a company co-founded by Tim Watkins, whose Renegade Prods. makes about 30 commercials a year for clients including Time Warner and Comcast. Watkins believes that Mel Gibson proved with 2004's "The Passion of the Christ" that Christian conservatives will flock to theaters for movies that interest them, "but there's not enough inventory to keep them coming back."
"Face of Evil" was made for $1 million and includes 1914 footage of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and 1919 footage of Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin. Watkins boasts that the film earned an average of $9,000 a screen during its opening weekend in six Dallas theaters, compared with the $900 opening-weekend per-screen tally for "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," a favorable evaluation of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate's war service that was released at about the same time.
Watkins is building a 25,000-square-foot studio in Baltimore that will focus on making Christian- and family-themed movies and TV shows, and he has produced a reality TV pilot titled "Grace Before Meals," featuring a personable chef who helps families learn to cook and happens to be a Catholic priest. Watkins' next film, "Atomic Iran," is based on a novel by Jerome Corsi, co-author of "Unfit for Command" -- a book that, according to many Democratic pundits, cost Kerry the election.
Then there's Evan Coyne Maloney, who gained attention in 2003 by pointing a camera at protesters before the U.S. attacked Iraq and asking them to explain their concerns. The humorous result is one of a series of short films he has posted on the Internet.
Maloney and a couple of partners then founded On the Fence Films, which has begun to earn acclaim for "Brainwashing 101," a documentary that spotlights political correctness on college campuses and plays primarily -- where else? -- on college campuses.
"People making documentaries today are primarily on the left, so stories that don't interest them would go untold," Maloney says.
Several clubs catering to entertainment-industry Republicans also are springing up, allowing conservatives to congregate. Members say such forums are necessary because they are outnumbered by outwardly hostile liberals, and some will not even reveal their political leanings for fear of reprisal.
"I do the dance, trying to figure out who the fellow conservatives are when we're all afraid to speak up," says Steve Finefrock, who executive-produced short films for the Department of Homeland Security before moving to Hollywood and working as a production assistant.
Finefrock and his ilk get no sympathy from prolific writer-producer Larry Gelbart, whose credits include the classic TV sitcom "M*A*S*H," the 1977 feature "Oh, God!" and the 1982 feature "Tootsie."
"Bullshit!" Gelbart replies, when asked if liberals make things difficult for conservatives in Hollywood. "If you're not strong enough to support a Republican administration out loud, then you're a wimp."
Gelbart, conservative writer Lionel Chetwynd and others are set to hash out their differences June 21 at Level One restaurant in Los Angeles during an event sponsored by Finefrock's newly founded Hollywood Conservative Forum. Ask Finefrock for examples of Hollywood's liberal slant, and he rattles off films endlessly: An uptight preacher in 1984's "Footloose" has a conservative American town so juiced up that it outlaws dancing; the character representing the U.S. Marines in 1999's "American Beauty" is portrayed mostly as a homophobic lunatic; Communism is lionized in movies such as 1981's "Reds" and 2004's "The Motorcycle Diaries"; employees always come off as heroes (think 1979's "Norma Rae"), and the "system" is always evil (1987's "Wall Street"); and 1987's "Dirty Dancing" extols the virtues of abortion and 1990's "Pretty Woman" the normalcy of prostitution.
And don't get him started on Brian De Palma's classic 1976 horror film "Carrie."
"Carrie has been made a geek by her mother's overprotectiveness and wackiness, again derived from religion -- specifically Christianity," Finefrock says. "We're still waiting for the dysfunctional-family movie derived from bad Islam."
That's nonsense, according to Gelbart.
"When I watch movies I'm not looking for a political agenda, nor do I see one," he says.
Gelbart does acknowledge a pet peeve expressed by Finefrock and many other Hollywood conservatives: No executive today is willing to greenlight a movie that portrays extreme Islamists as the enemy (though check out Fox's 1994 actioner "True Lies" to see none other than current California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger going head-to-head with crazed jihadists). But Gelbart believes that is a pragmatic decision having little to do with politics.
"You make a radical Muslim mad, and he won't rip off your bumper sticker, he'll rip off your bumper -- then your car will be found in another state, and he'll put a fatwa on you," he says. "I think fearing for your life is a pretty good reason not to do it."
Gelbart traces the entertainment industry's liberal slant to something everyone in Hollywood can understand: economics. One can say what they will about the agenda behind "Carrie," "Footloose" or "Pretty Woman," but all of those movies scored at the boxoffice as few "conservative-oriented" films have.
Are those on the left inherently more skilled at producing mainstream entertainment? Do conservative filmmakers simply need more opportunities? Gelbart offers one possible answer.
"Nobody ever sat down and said, 'Let's make a bunch of lefty movies,'" he says. "List the artistic people on the left and those on the right, and compare their work: Those on the left are more creative."
Published June 07, 2005
The sad truth is that not enough conservatives go into the film industry because of knee jerk condemnation of it amongst a certain segment of conservatives who distrust the Arts. I remember posts here from people trying to get financing for a conservative themed film project and couldn't get anyone interested conservatives included. They wanted nothing to do with 'Hollyweird'
Gelbrat is correct here. Hollywood conservatives need to express themselves the way every other American conservative does. They're in the business of communication, and if they're too wimpy to make only movies that match their values, what good are they? "When I watch movies I'm not looking for a political agenda, nor do I see one," he says.
Now it's Gelbart who's full of bull. To say the lib agenda isn't rampant in Hollywood product is just laughable.
Hollywood Conservatives need to live with the courage of their convictions, or they're no more conservative than the RINOs in congress.
All Art has a political/moral/sociological agenda. It's always based on certain assumptions about the world.
He needs a good freeping.
Yep. Boyfriend is in the business. All the republicans glow in the dark they're so obvious amongst the rest.
Well I was thinking more in terms of actually making films as opposed to protesting other people's. :-)
The movie Carrie altered the character from the book, who was as much a brutal abuser as she was a religious wacko. Hollywood producers don't just shrug and say "Well, it was in the book, so we HAVE to make her a religious wacko." They played up those elements in the movie, and they had every right to remove them if they wanted. They made the movie, they can't go crying "But it was in the book!" when they made the conscious decision to retain those elements while removing others (the newspaper accounts and the post-fire investigation, for example, are simply eliminated, as are many character moments).
Reds was as described--I don't see why this is groupthink. Communism was lionized in that movie, and it was a Hollywood movie. Where's the groupthink?
The Footloose preacher is also as described--he's a cliched character who "outlaws dancing". That's not groupthink, that's the way it is in the movie. An "awww, he's really a nice guy" add-on explaining his behavior doesn't change the behavior. Do people think of that character as a hero or a slobbering cliche of a preacher?
The person quoted doesn't say fighting the system is bad; he merely points out that the system, and big business, are ALWAYS shown as evil. That's a good or bad thing, but it's true--are 99% of movies about how GOOD the US system is?
Of course. I don't see your point, though.
Gelbard admits he's a coward, then says he has a right to be.
But I have heard Hollywwod for the last 2 years decry that censorship is the fault of George Bush. Gelbard is clearly the censor here, he admits it.
Hollywood is trash for the most part.
But nobody listed "Team America/World Police" which was definately pro-American, anti-Terrorism.
I think we should do both....
I mean that Gelbart claiming that he doesn't look for a political agenda is beside the point. It's always there.
I didn't think the sentence made any sense at all. Reminds me of that Johnny Cash song. "The one on the right was, in the middle and the one in the middle was, on the top...."
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