I know there are so many mass shootings these days we can barely keep track. I know that every one of them brings its own pain and its own horror and its own controversy. Each one opens a door to discussions of some contentious political issue, usually gun control. And so it should. Every time something so horrible happens, we should all stop and think and question what we can do better, so it might not happen again.
I was particularly affected by the Moncton shootings. Maybe because, even though I left the Maritimes long ago, I still call New Brunswick “my Canada home.” Maybe because I grew up in a military family and my brother was an RCMP member for many years. Maybe because it was Moncton, dammit, and shit like that doesn’t happen there. Or maybe I’m hormonal. Who knows? What I do know is, I am horrified enough to get past the kneejerk reaction and think really hard about what I can do to change a world that has become so twisted that this kind of crap can find its way to Moncton, New Brunswick.
I’ve spent the past 24 hours thinking, examining, considering, questioning. I’ve seen that picture of the shooter (who I refuse to honour by writing his name) in his ridiculous Rambo gear. I’ve asked myself the question: did we – filmmakers – contribute to this with our constant glorification of the kinds of people who don camo and headbands and go out shooting people? Did the general public contribute by constantly plonking down money to see those films? The answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about what motivated that dickhead in Moncton, or any of the zillion others like him. Probably some of them were affected by films. Probably some were just nut-jobs anyway. I don’t know.
Here’s what I do know. When I committed myself to being a filmmaker, I did it for one reason. I wanted to change the way one person sees himself and the world. If I could do that, if I could open up one mind and help one person be better for himself and the world, the ripple effect would take over, and I’d have done my job. And I’m not talking about only making earnest “message” films that nobody under 30 wants to watch. I believe you can tell entertaining, fantastic, appealing stories that find a way – however subtly – to contribute to the moral evolution of mankind.
Somebody made such a film for me once. One highly entertaining film planted a seed in me that ultimately changed the way I looked at a certain kind of person, and the world, and it made me a better human being. Imagine if the loathsome creature who shot up Moncton had seen such a film. Imagine if a seed had been planted in him at some time that was a good seed, that changed something, so that his conscience didn’t zig when it should have zagged, so that he was able to circumvent whatever messed-up part of his brain told him to murder people.
That kind of result is what we should all strive for. Sometimes in the panic to get a film made, we forget why we are doing this in the first place. But we shouldn’t. We should remember the enormous responsibility we have, because so many people watch movies. So many lives can be affected, positively or negatively. So many points of view can be changed. This isn’t just entertainment. This is storytelling, and stories – for thousands of years - have been told for reasons that matter. And those are the stories we remember.
I want my stories to matter. Maybe it won’t always work. Maybe some people are just crazy, irredeemable bastards. Maybe I can’t change the world. But, in the name of those three RCMP members whose lives were senselessly stolen – Cst Dave Ross, Cst. Douglas James Larche and Cst Fabrice Georges Gevaudan - I am sure as hell going to try.