Self-censorship

President Obama in response to the recent Sony hacks that led to The Interview being pulled from theaters:

"We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States, because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they'll do when they see a documentary that they don't like, or news reports that they don't like -- or even worse, imagine if producers or distributors or others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended," Obama said.

I've been thinking about self-censorship a lot lately. I have a lot of ideas. But many I don't pursue. Why?

Part of the reason is self-censorship - particularly that a certain project or idea doesn't fit me. Or that it may offend someone. 

I think some of that is healthy. There's too much garbage out there that offends just to offend. That in itself isn't art. It's insignificant. But on the other hand, what ideas am I passing on that could speak to something important, but perhaps may not be easy to watch - or for that matter, to create?

You can't write a film like 12 Years A Slave with that mindset. You have to go all in. You have to be willing to lose those viewers to be true. To have impact. The people you lose, you were never going to reach them anyway.

Bass: The law says you have the right to hold a nigger, but begging the law's pardon... it lies. Is everything right because the law allows it? Suppose they'd pass a law taking away your liberty and making you a slave? 

Edwin Epps: Ha! 

Bass: Suppose! 

Edwin Epps: That ain't a supposable case. 

Bass: Because the law states that your liberties are undeniable? Because society deems it so? Laws change. Social systems crumble. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, it is a plain fact that what is true and right is true and right for all. White and black alike.

excerpted from the 12 Years A Slave screenplay by John Ridley

It's easier said than done. There's a reason you don't see scripts and films like this every day.

Sometimes the things that push boundaries are hard to write simply because you don't want to think about them. But it's critical to be mindful of this. It's important to not fear that someone may be upset by what you say.

Because if what you have to say matters, then say it.

Telling stories like a dream

Life after Sundance