At Crosswind we say that we “are our clients’ storytellers.” One of the reasons I like working for this agency is because so many of these stories are important – maybe not on a scale of exploring new frontiers or saving lives or balancing inequities but … oh wait. Yes, they are.
The impact of those stories may not be known or felt for years. They may impact millions, or just a neighborhood. They may only impact Texans, but watched by the world. And then replicated.
I’ve lived in Texas for 33 years. I love basketball and love watching both men’s and women’s college games. I remember watching El Paso play when Don Haskins was still coaching the Miners; occasionally I’d hear announcers refer to his historic Texas Western/UTEP 1966 NCAA championship win, in which he became the first coach to start five Black players. I remember thinking that was amazing, but never heard much more about it.
Then I saw Glory Road.
The story riveted me. I count it as one of those real-life stories against that which no fictional screenplay could ever do justice. At its conclusion my first thought was, “What took someone so long to make this movie?”
I’m a horse person. I was just a kid when Secretariat won the Triple Crown but I remember watching that legendary Belmont Stakes race that earned him that honor, and an immortalization in horse racing history.
But I didn’t know the entire story. I didn’t know about the bond he had with his groom, Eddie Sweat. I didn’t know that his owners were at risk of losing their farm. I didn’t know the strength of Penny Chenery, nor her conviction – and willingness to put everything on the line – that this horse would win.
“What took someone so long to make this movie?”
I had the same reaction with Apollo 13. Saving Private Ryan. The Freedom Writers. The Right Stuff. We Were Soldiers Once … and Young. Remember the Titans. We are Marshall.
Last month I watched the Golden Globes with my husband, Joe. This was atypical for us; we’re not big on award shows, for no reason other than we can usually find something else we prefer to watch or do.
When the show was over, Joe commented that while it was somewhat entertaining, he typically didn’t watch awards shows because he thought they were irrelevant. Too over the top. It was just entertainment, after all.
I’m not an avid movie-goer. In fact, I can’t tell you the last time I stepped into a movie theatre. Our movie viewing has been via rentals or waiting until they hit cable – which means we likely won’t even see this year’s nominations for another year or more.
But I got almost emotional when I sat up and made a surprisingly passionate argument:
“But it’s not irrelevant. Throughout time, we’ve depended on Hollywood to tell the stories that need to be told, the stories that most households in America, or around the world, would otherwise never know about. So many of these stories would be lost without the movies – think about Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List – those veterans are disappearing, leaving generations that will only have the movies to find out about everyday people doing extraordinary things that shaped history. Even the stories that you could argue aren’t that impactful deserve to be told, before they’re lost forever. That’s what keeps Hollywood relevant, whether you’re a fan of the players or not.”
And until that time, I’m not sure I consciously thought of it in this context.
The movies I enjoy the most, the movies I purchase and watch over and over again, are the ones where I am amazed that it took someone so long to tell such an important or amazing story — especially those based on real-life events and people.
Of course not all have to be “true” stories to be significant. I’ve watched several movies set in and just beyond the Civil Rights Movement era that I consider to be equally important; events depicted may not be based on any one real story but that doesn’t make them untrue.
I’m not making a pro-Hollywood argument as much as I am a pro-movie argument. A pro-storytelling argument. Just about anyone I know can pick several things they dislike about Hollywood, including me, and I despise many of the movies it produces.
I solicited input from my colleague and Crosswind’s resident filmmaker and screenplay writer Adrian Patenaude.
“I would argue more for independent filmmakers telling the relevant stories. And the Oscars rarely highlight those accurately. But I see some hope developing in Hollywood. Movies in general are still so influential!”
I don’t disagree with her. Most of the indies I’ve seen I’ve really enjoyed – not just the stories, but the authenticity in the overall production.
I don’t know if we’ll be watching the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday. I do know that whether they originate from Hollywood, or some other sanctum of creativity, I am glad for their commitment and grateful for the impact those stories have on me.
And I’ll raise a glass to The Storytellers.