Michael Pack: ”You Can’t Fight The Culture War Without Making Movies”
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From Real Clear Politics:

You Can’t Fight the Culture War Without Making Movies

By Michael Pack September 11, 2023

Michael Pack is a documentary filmmaker, who has produced over 15 award-winning documentaries which were nationally broadcast on public television, most recently “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.” He has also served as a media, government, and non-profit executive.

Conservatives complain that they are losing the culture wars. And they are right. That won’t change until conservatives actually produce culture, which would be good for everyone. American culture would be enriched by art made by artists with diverse viewpoints and experiences.

Conservatives could start with independent and documentary films; they are increasingly influential but much less expensive than Hollywood movies. Yet, many, on both sides, don’t believe conservatives can make good films.

I disagree, and I am in a position to know. Along with my wife and business partner, Gina Cappo Pack, I have been producing documentaries for many years. Over 15 of our films have been nationally broadcast on PBS. All have won awards and garnered many favorable reviews. (A full list of our films along with clips can be found here.) …

Here’s Wikipedia’s list of his documentaries:

Hollywood’s Favorite Heavy: Businessmen on Prime Time TV, hosted by Eli Wallach (1987)
Campus Culture Wars: Five Stories about Political Correctness, narrated by Lindsay Crouse (1993)
Hollywood vs. Religion, hosted by Michael Medved (1995)
Inside the Republican Revolution: The First Hundred Days, hosted by Don Lambro (1995)
The Rodney King Incident: Race and Justice in America, narrated by Robert Prosky (1998)
The Fall of Newt Gingrich, narrated by Blair Brown (2000)
Rediscovering George Washington, hosted by Richard Brookhiser (2002)
God and the Inner City, narrated by Phylicia Rashad (2003)
Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton, hosted by Richard Brookhiser (2011)
RICKOVER: The Birth of Nuclear Power, narrated by Joan Allen (2014)
Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words (2020)
The Last 600 Meters (2020), a documentary about “the two biggest battles of the Iraqi war”

Back to Pack:

The left owns the narrative. Their version of contemporary events and history dominates—we are told that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery, the Cold War ended thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev, transgender athletes have a civil right to compete in sports with biological women, and the rest of the woke litany.

In the past, conservatives have downplayed the importance of culture, seeing its airy fictions as less serious than economics or politics. After losing many of their children and grandchildren to the progressive left, they have come to see the error of their ways, at least in theory. Many quote Andrew Breitbart’s aphorism that “politics is downstream of culture,” as if this were a new idea. It isn’t: In 1820, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and by “poets” he meant all artists. Plato and Aristotle understood this same idea thousands of years earlier, and they were none too happy about it, or at least ambivalent.

Conservatives talk about culture and storytelling all the time. But few of them really get it.

I watch a lot of conservative films, especially documentaries. Few are very good, as I am often told by my friends on the left, and most don’t even coherently tell a story. Preaching at the audience isn’t telling a story. A series of anecdotes is not a story. A story is something that happens to a protagonist, or a group of protagonists, with a beginning, middle, and end. It has a story arc. Characters change and develop. Ideas emerge from the action. …

Good documentary filmmakers reveal their biases not so much by distorting facts but by the stories they choose to tell. Several progressive filmmakers have chosen to tell the Ruth Bader Ginsburg story. Ginsburg was graced with two documentaries and a fictional feature film and became a pop culture heroine. All three films were widely acclaimed, and Robert Redford invited her to the Sundance Film Festival to celebrate her even more. We chose to tell Clarence Thomas’ story. America needs both. …

The Left’s Documentary Ecosystem

Not only does the left have a better intuitive grasp of story, but they are also more serious about developing the institutions to support story-telling culture.

Over the last 50 years, the left has poured time, money, and creativity into this project. Looking only at documentaries and small independent features, I estimate that the left spends tens of billions of dollars annually. For example, the annual budget of public broadcasting, radio, and television is about $2.5 billion. Netflix, according to the Wall Street Journal, spent $17 billion last year on content. Not all of this money is going to left-leaning products, but much of it is. And these are only two out of many left-leaning media enterprises. On the other side, the right spends, maybe, tens of millions of dollars on films and television. So, over 50 years, this gap has grown to hundreds of billions of dollars, which has underwritten a progressive ecosystem of supportive and reinforcing institutions, in addition to many, many powerful films.

The left starts nurturing young filmmakers right from the beginning of their careers and then at every step along the way. …

Read the whole thing there.

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