Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Good People Do Media Wrong

Somebody just sent me yet another little pro-life video to review.  They said they wanted my notes, but, if anybody wants notes, they should ask BEFORE the thing is done, not after.  Afterward, what you want is a review.  Except you really don't.  You want me to love it and send it around to everybody I know and then maybe a millionaire will send the producers a million dollars.

Don't get me wrong.  I am eighty gazillion times pro-life and completely down with any effort that might save a life.  But I am deeply frustrated with the repeated fruitless efforts of the movement -- and frankly the broader Christian community - in the area of media.

Here's the letter I sent back in response to the piece.  I post it here because it is generally instructive.


Thanks for sharing the trailer with me.  As you know, this kind of project is very close to my heart.

Having said that, I think this piece suffers from the ailment of most of this kind of overt pro-life media - and indeed most "evangelistic" media made in the Church.  That is, the people who are making it are NOT the audience of the piece, and they do not realize that.  If the audience for this is clean cut, morally responsible, clear-thinking Christian white kids, then this piece has the possibility of finding a hearing with them.  But, in truth, that is not the main group to whom we need to make an appeal in works of this kind.  

When I see projects like this coming from pro-lifers, I really want to tell them to go and stay at a crisis pregnancy center for a weekend and meet the women there who are in crisis.  These places are far from lily white and they are also frequented by young women who tend to be highly streetwise and sexually active.  I'm just telling it like it is here.  This piece plays like a PSA on the Hallmark Channel when it needs to play like a showstopper on MTV.

Here's a case in point.  This is a film promoted by Planned Parenthood about the same topic.  Just watch the first few minutes:

Did you notice how the piece from the demon servers at Planned Prenthood was rooted in the Latino community?   They even start in church, the bastards!  That would be like us starting a video in a strip club.   But they don't care because they are intent on connecting with their intended audience whereas we are intent on not offending our donors and pastors.  Did you see how the pace is very fast?  Did you notice the unique things they did with direct address and establishing rapport with the protagonist?  And I could go on as to how it is a better piece for the intended audience then the one made by the pro-lifers.  

My feeling is, what you have sent me is the kind of piece that will do well with people who are already well-disposed to give a Catholic/pro-life video a hearing.  It isn't provocative enough to get past the walls of anyone who isn't already well-disposed.  It isn't creative enough to intrigue.  It isn't anything it should be except, well, nice.

In terms of overall creative vision, the piece is full of the same stock photo type images that pepper all these kinds of things:  young women staring out at the horizon, nature shots, young families having a good time, blah blah blah.  There isn't anything interesting in the vision of the piece in terms of style of shooting, perspective or metaphor.

Having said that, from a production standpoint, the piece is shot well and edited well and the sound is even.  Just those three things does mark an improvement in pro-life/religious media in the last twenty years.

One last thought....  There is a reason Planned Parenthood media is peppered with the likes of Scarlet Johansen, Ashley Judd, Gwneth Paltrow, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga, etc.  We live in a celebrity driven culture.  "Ride the horse in the direction in which it is going."

They should have called Catharsis before they started shooting.  What can I say?....

Just one idiot's opinion.  God bless -



Deo volente said...

Preach it, sister! Why someone would ask for your valuable opinion AFTER the work is done makes no sense! Keep telling it like it is! If PP can get the best talent and scripts, perhaps future projects should study what THEY do!


Fr. Andrew said...


The difference between art and propaganda. Art engages and propaganda preaches. Unless we understand culture and the power of culture we wont win hearts...alas...