Scene4 Magazine: GATE2 -Jim Carrey-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.com

Arthur Kanegis

Scene4 Magazine-inSight

April 2012

     "Movies are to our civilization what dreams and ideals are to individual lives: they express the mystery and help define the nature of who we are and what we are becoming... Go and tell stories that illuminate our times and our souls, that waken the sleeping angel inside the beast." — Frank Pierson, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and of the Writers Guild of America.

The last time we watched the presidential debates, a group of us found ourselves exasperated, yelling facts and figures at the television screen.

But no matter how loudly we shout – in letters to Congress, blogs, flyers, whatever— the facts and figures seem to pass in one ear and right out the other – and the world continues to plunge toward disaster.

So how do we fix the world?

If, as Buckminster Fuller said, "Humanity is in its 'final exam' as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in the Universe," then how do we pass the exam if not with facts and figures?

An opportunity to find answers came to me in an invitation from my friend John Raatz, the visionary founder of the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment, to come to Beverly Hills for his GATE 2 conference.

Scene4 Magazine: GATE2-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.com

Folks in the heart of the entertainment industry — directors, producers, musicians and actors like Jim Carrey and Edward James Olmos, were getting together with Eckhart Tolle, Jean Houston, Marianne Williamson, Barbara Marx Hubbard and other luminaries of enlightenment to exchange ideas on how to tell stories that can create a shift in the world.

Hollywood has made big bucks selling fear. It's easy to trigger an emotional response with stories about the dark side, the horrors of the world. But can Hollywood touch people's emotions with stories that help seed a culture of peace and a positive vision for our future? Could Hollywood now help humanity pass the final exam?

As a film-maker, I sure wanted to find out.

One of the first people I ran into at the conference was Tom Shadyac. He directed Shadyac-and-Carrey-cra film about a friend of mine, Patch Adams, whose own journey transformed him from a doctor-type doctor — into a clown-type doctor – healing people through humor!

Tom also directed Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, Ace Ventura Pet Detective and other films starring the conference headliner Jim Carrey – who promised to share with us the meaning of life and the secret of his success – but more about that later. I promise.

Tom's life recently took a major turn when the near-death experience of a bike accident triggered his own transformation from a life of wealth and unhappiness – to a life of serving others and joy!

"Much of what we've created around us is not reality, it's just an illusory world of stuff and things and power," Tom told me. "We often say that when we go to the movies we're escaping reality. I happen to think that we are diving into reality. The world of movies often wakes us into the reality of connection, love, struggle, and challenge. So I know the power of movies is profound and I'm honored to be a part of the storytelling process."

"Have you had people tell you that stories you've created transformed their lives?" I asked.

"Yes, actually, yes. It's quite moving and humbling to hear, especially with my current movie I Am, because it asks you to rethink things. Some people have had scales fall off their eyes and they've seen things differently, and they've said their lives have changed."

Tom wasn't even on the conference agenda. Like the rest of us, he was just there to engage and learn. Pretty amazing conference where before you even get to the speakers you run into people like Tom and Roko!

Roko Belic, was the cinematographer on I AM, and his own film Genghis Blues was nominated for an Academy Award. World-Happy-DayHis current project is the movie Happy, the film that sparked World Happy Day – celebrated annually on February 11.

"Story is everything," Roko told me. "Without story we have no context. It's imbedded within our psyche from where we came and to some extent, where we're headed. Stories are what give us meaning and a reason to live."

In the ancient Greek era, Plato said "Those who tell the stories, rule." Many a power-hungry ruler has fanned the flames of war and consolidated power with a terrifying story of evil deeds purportedly done by their "enemy." (See www.warisalie.com) At the same time, many of humanity's greatest advances, like flight and soaring into space, began with inspiring stories that sparked people's imaginations.

David Korten, author of The Great Turning, once put it this way: "We humans live by stories. The key to making a choice for Earth Community is recognizing that the foundation of Empire's power does not lie in its instruments of physical violence. It lies in Empire's ability to control the stories by which we define ourselves and our possibilities…. To change the human future, we must change our defining stories."

So how do we change the defining story?

Speaker Jeremy Kagan, director of Heroes, The Big Fix, The Chosen, Roswell, The Journey of Natty Gann, and Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, founded the Change Making Media Lab – to determine what kind of cinema is most effective in changing and influencing behavior.

For starters, Social scientists at USC tested 2 clips with the same 18 pieces of info, same length, one a documentary, the other a dramatic narrative. The people watching the narrative proved far more motivated to take action. "Entertainment Education," Kagan said "is far more effective when it engrosses people and pulls them into stories and relationships."

Okay, so we need engrossing stories – but what kind of story can help precipitate a global shift?

Duane Elgin told us that while Hollywood is a real pro at picturing a future of catastrophe and ruin, we need to move beyond such cautionary tales if we're going to build a promising future for humanity. Filmmakers need to lead the way in "imagining a future of opportunity and renewal."

Elgin created a web site, www.GreatTransitionStories.org – a wonderful resource for filmmakers to stimulate their thinking to begin to evolve new narratives.

"The Hero's Journey has three, major stages: separation, initiation, and return." Elgin said. "Over the past 45,000 years or so, the human community has moved from a long stage of separation from nature and one another, into a time of initiation. We have moved from our childhood as awakening hunter-gatherers to our late adolescence as a species on the edge of a planetary civilization. We are now moving collectively through a rite of passage, toward our early adulthood as a human community."

"Humanity is becoming a Superorganism -- each of us a cell in the body of humanity. This is a deep insight coming out of Biology. The Human family is aggregating into a single organism that transcends nations states," he concluded.

James Bonnet, writer and story consultant, has searched for the patterns hidden in the great stories. He presents them in his Storywheel at www.StoryMaking.com.

Bonnet drew me in with his own intriguing story:

"When I was 7 I was enthralled by Captain Marvel. He'd cry 'Shazam,' a lighting bolt struck, and he became a superhero. I prayed to God to make me Captain Marvel and transform me into the most powerful force for good in the World. With tears in my eyes, I cried 'Shazam.' Nothing. Two more times. Still all in vain. I was stunned. Disappointed. It severely damaged my relations with the supreme being."

"Later," Bonnet continued, "I discovered that the great story is Shazam. Unlocking the secrets of story unlocks the secrets of the mind and awakens the power of story within you. Work with that power and you can steal fire from the gods. Master that power and you can create super powerful stories that have a significant impact on the world, and you can make yourself whole in the process."

"Cultural Creatives are today's version of the Shaman's of old," said Screenwriter Catherine Ann Jones, author of The Way of Story, "For 30,000 years, shamans have tended the soul of man. The shaman's soul leaves his body in a trance state and travels to the underworld or skyward, returning with a message for the community -- becoming a bridge between earth and spirit. The best times for me as a writer are when I seem to disappear altogether and the story writes itself. It passes through me, but is not really mine.

"When I was invited to write for Touched by an Angel, the fan mail was overwhelming. One man wrote that he had decided to commit suicide. Then he watched Touched by an Angel, and decided, through his tears, to give life a chance."

"Dare to be personal," Catherine concluded. "In the specific lies the universal – not the other way around. Commit to an individual quest, an inner journey and from this quest will arise the songs and stories worthy of serving our community."

"Make me sing, laugh, but don't beat me over the head," said Film Editor Kurt Engfehr (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 911, The Awful Truth).

"Transport yourself as a film maker back to the beginning, where you started, and relive that journey bringing the audience with you. Have all this information but save it for the audience to utilize in very specific bits along the way."

"One thing you can't be is a teacher. You have to be a tour guide, leading them on their own tour. You're a personal Lonely Planet tour guide – just you and the audience."

    It's 3:23 in the morning and I'm awake
    because my great, great, grandchildren won't let me sleep.
    My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
    what did you do while the planet was plundered?
    what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
    surely you did something when the seasons started failing
    as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
    did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
    what did you do
    once
    you
    knew?
    Hieroglyphic Stairway by Drew Dellinger

"Our society is messed up because of our story," poet Drew Dellinger told us after awakening us with his poems. "Racism is a dysfunctional story. Patriarchy. Sexism. All start with a dysfunctional story. The power of entertainment is one of the most important tools we have to planetize our story."

"The universe is the new story, and we are in that story. You are connected to the world in just one story and in the unfolding of that story is the celebration that is the universe itself."

Scene4 Magazine: GATE2-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.com

As I sat in the audience, hearing such lofty concepts, I had to wonder: will they ever really break into mainstream Hollywood which is, after all, a business?

Marianne Williamson hit that issue head on:

"The unethical, unbalanced bottom line by which money is placed beyond all else, replacing all humanitarian values, is a corruption that has affected this industry as much as any other. Those of you who are artists or actors, or directors, when you are offered a thousand dollars or ten thousand dollars or a million dollars to do a scene you know should not be in there, that you know is wrong, when you stand up, when you have the courage to say no, then you will kick ass!"

The audience applauded wildly, and I thought of Jeff Skoll whose Participant Media has adopted a different bottom line:

"We始ve actually had cases where we looked at the risk profile of a film and said, 驶The way this looks, chances are we始re going to lose a million, 2 million, even 5 million dollars. But maybe we始ll get 10 million or 20 million worth of social value from it始. We will take risks on projects where we think we might lose money, because we hope that the good that comes from that outweighs the risk. It始s a different kind of philanthropy."

Jeff is an amazing guy. But are we really going to turn mainstream Hollywood into filmanthropists?

Fortunately, we may not have to wait that long. Courageous pioneers like Jeff Skoll may well turn out to be the big money makers. The next speakers explained why:

Molly Trimble, Board Chairman and CEO of Continuity Publishing, Inc., said:

"We're in the middle of a values shift on a global scale and the economics of that shift are becoming clear. Though estimates vary, the population segment known as LOHAS, or Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, is at least 50 million strong and gaining ground. These values-driven consumers are actively seeking alignment between the money they spend and the values they hold in their heart. 'Cultural Creative' and 'Conscious Consumer' may sound like marketing labels, but they're real people with a desire to "act out" their values, and they have money!"

Paul Ray, a veteran market researcher, chimed in: "You wanna know about the money? I'll bet! There are 41 million Cultural Creatives households spending $120 billion a year on Entertainment, and a Core group of 19 million that spends $54 Billion a year. You wanna change the world? Then you gotta reach the Core Cultural Creatives! No matter which transformational agenda you've got: social, cultural, psychological, or consciousness."

Paul went on to detail the market: "Cultural Scene4 Magazine: Paul Ray-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.comCreatives are seriously concerned with self-actualization, spirituality, self-expression; they like the foreign and exotic, and enjoy new ideas. They're socially concerned, advocating ecological sustainability, women's issues, peace, social justice and planetary awareness. These aren't separate concerns; to reach them it's necessary to appeal to the whole package of principles. They are everywhere. Age, race and ethnicity are typical of the nation as a whole. Values, not demographics, are what identify this market."

So, Hollywood, is there really such a huge untapped market, ripe and just waiting for you to give them what they want?

Think Avatar. Its native characters were foreign, exotic, and spiritual – female led and advocating ecological sustainability. The movie took us on a journey into yearning for peace, social justice and planetary awareness. And it was the top-grossing worldwide release of all time, beating the record set by Titanic.

Yes Hollywood, there is a market!

All in all it was an amazing conference – a 16-hour day filled with fabulous speakers too numerous to detail. You can see them all at www.gatecommunity.org. Here are just a few examples:

Eckhart Tolle, made the analogy of our lives to the people on a movies screen. What if one of the characters onscreen suddenly stepped out of the turmoil and drama and realized: "I am a play of light coming from a projector?" While you are in the story it feels very real, but if you can step out of the whirl of activity, thoughts and fears, then you can find your true essence.

Dara Marks, author of one of the top selling books on screenwriting, Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc, told us that the character arc that is at the heart of screenplay structure is both a metaphor and a model for transformation within the individual and in the world. "Transformational content isn't just good for the soul, it can also enhance box office revenues – while at the same time enhancing the quality of our lives."

Mark Matousek took us on a journey through his own character arc, triggered by his sister's suicide, into discovering the transformative power of telling the truth. His story touched me at a deep personal level, as he became a mentor character in the "Hero's Journey" of my own sister – a story of Separation, Initiation, and Return.

Louie Schwartzberg, an award-winning cinematographer, in his Circle of Life film, took us on a journey marked by a series of passages, from birth to adulthood, from middle age to death.

Fred Alan Wolf, a world-renowned physicist, writer, and lecturer who conducts research on the relationship of quantum physics to consciousness – told us all about the science of the "imaginal" realm.

Edward James Olmos, actor, said "nothing attacks the subconscious mind as Scene4 Magazine: Edward James Olmos-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.commuch as this medium. The sights, the sound — all these images race into your sub- conscious mind. . We can use this medium to advance humanity – by the choices that we make as writers, directors, actors, production teams – and by music and our poetry and our art. Entertainment has a tremendous impact on all the world; let's go out and use it the way GATE has really started today."

Barbara Marx Hubbard shared with us the excitement of her Birth 2012 movement, a massive opportunity for millions of hearts to ignite and spread the vision of a new way of being for all of us on planet Earth. "I believe when we really combine the genius of Hollywood with the genius of innovation and transformation, and that we celebrate with humanity what's emerging, we can shift the world in time to avoid the violent collapse that is being foreseen. We can gentle our birth toward a co-evolving, co-creative humanity."

In addition to the outstanding yakity yak, there was the joyous clackity clack of dancing feet, drumming and music with performers like Baba Oyadare Ranson III and Wade Colwell-Sandoval wowing the audience with Worldside and violinist Lili Haydn manifesting pure joy, totally tuning in the audience as she rocked the stage with Eric Luimiere. Also Ash Ruiz, Faith Rivera, Paul Horn, Jahan Raymond, Damien Rose, Ann Mortifee, Rafael Bejarano, Ben Lee and the amazing Bella Gaia featuring Kenji Williams. I found myself wishing I could attend a whole concert with each one of these riveting performers!

Jim Carrey's own daughter Jane Carrey, sang an enchanting song: "Finally Feels Like Home." As she sang it, it seemed to meld with the conference theme as in my mind I heard: This Planet feels like home! Her performance with George Krikes was holistic and honest and the song came through as beautiful and inspiring!

And speaking of beauty, Jim Carrey also brought his enthralling artwork, which was on display in the lobby of the Saban Theater – alongside that of John Lennon – including rare numbered prints of his handwritten song: Imagine.

In a conference full of inspiring moments, the pinnacle for me was the talk by Jean Houston. When she was a young woman, her good friend, the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead, told her: "I want you to go out and harvest the Human Potential. Find out what is working in societies. Look at that tribe related to the Yoruba people. Why no neurosis as we know it.? Almost no war? Discover their method."

When Jean investigated, she found that while they thought collectively about a social problem they sang and danced and drummed — and visioned the problem until they had a solution! "They were simply cooking on more burners."

Houston continued: "I've been working many months with the Occupy Movement. But it's not enough to be against the Banksters, what are you for?

"The Zeit is getting geisty. It's happening everywhere. The world mind and the world spirit are coming together. More and more people are coming together to co-create the new reality.

"You are the tellers of this story; you are the possible human arising to inform our personal and planetary journey. These are the times, we are the people! Thank God our time is now.

"Many of you are called to take initiatives that would have seemed impossible a few years ago. But now the reset button of history has been set. You no longer have the luxury of sloth. You are at the center of the nervous system of present history. You have the opportunity to play a role in the greatest transition drama of all time. All over the world we are now able to harvest the entire capacity of the genius of the human race.

"We are the most fortunate group of people because we have a reason for being on Earth in these early years of the new millennium. Our job, our holy task, our great privilege is to bring about peace.

"I don't mean an insipid dove. I mean peace that is so rich and full of flavor, it makes sense to make peace, to shift the dangerous and fearful war-embracing patterns of centuries and to offer rich and evocative alternatives, and you do this through story – stories of peacemaking that are alluring, fascinating, evocative and… sexy."

Quoting poet Clifford Browder, Jean continued:

"Don't let the war boys hog it all
The spit, the spice and the glamour,
Peace is potency…
A good scrap
A hot wrestle and a cool scrub…
Prickles and burrs
It's wild grapes in a bramble…
Lovers churning
Through the night, at noon, in the morning
A juicy comeuppance
For the grim suppressors…
Don't be dainty
Go at it
Hammer and tong.
Peace
is not purity
Limp, neat and dry.
It's sexy."
(For the full poem see:
ursulacarrie.blogspot.mx/2009_09_01_archive.html )

"It is a dynamic green-growing concept… this dynamic peace-making, this world-making, this life-making, and when it works it renews individuals, communities and this world. And what this world so desperately needs to build peaceful, passionately-creative and effective societies is to have patterns, and that means stories."

Wow! As Jean finished, the entire audience was electrified – and I found myself thinking: "How in hell did we let the "war boys" get away with it? Killing is the opposite of sex. Killers aren't sexy. Sex is sensual and loving, giving birth to life, not destroying it. Dynamic peacemaking is what gives life – the very survival of the species – of course it's sexy.

So what a great challenge for us writers and film-makers. It's easy to hold an audience with crash! boom! bang! The fight or flight reflex kicks in and we have the audience in the palm of our hand – or I should say, on the tips of our fingers on the keyboard. But how much more challenging – and rewarding – it will be to find ways of capturing an audience with dynamic peace-building stories that make them laugh, cry, hang onto the edge of their seat for the ride of a lifetime right up to the exciting and sexy climax.

If humanity is going to make it on this planet, we need to create stories of new kinds of heroines and heroes who wield more advanced means than violence – not on behalf of a divine king, but on behalf of the divinity in all of us -- people-powered heroes on transformational journeys into visionary futures.  

Those of us in the entertainment business now have a terrific opportunity -- to brainstorm, sponsor screenplay competitions, have story meetings, and develop seminars and training programs to empower writers, producers and directors to create new kinds of stories. We have the opportunity to take audiences on fantastic journeys into the abundant, balanced, dynamic, ecologically-sustainable and friendly "glocalized" (global and local) future we dream about.  

John Raatz challenged us to "transform the world by transforming entertainment and media." We believe this is not only possible, but also inevitable. The transformation has already started and the audience is ready!"

As more and more innovators dare to take that challenge and create such visions, they will find their films breaking box-office records – and the imitators will surely follow. Hollywood could well plant the seeds for a new story, a new mythology that could help inspire new realities.

Humanity will pass its final exam and we'll all build a safer, more secure, more prosperous and sustainable planet for all.  

THE END.

Oh, wait, I promised you Jim Carrey.  After doing a hilarious imitation of Eckhart Tolle, he shared this revelation:  

Scene4 Magazine: Jim Carrey-Wanna Change the World? | Arthur Kanegis | April 2012 | www.scene4.com

"What's the secret of my success? I conquered ego -- and that's what makes me so very special and unique. I have transcended my grandiosity, and that's what puts me a cut above the rest."

The audience roared with laughter.  

"Now I'm not saying I'm a guru or holy man, or Jesus," J.C. continued, but what I really want to say about this transcendent consciousness in entertainment is better described in a parable.  

"A young man opens a health food restaurant. And he wants to give people only the most pure and healthy ingredients. Then a woman opens up a health food store across the street, but she adds chocolate pie made with agave to the menu. She pulls all the business across the street -- and he goes out of business.

"And the moral of this story is…

"Do not trust women."  

The audience laughed -- but I bristled at the put down, even in jest — until I remembered Carrey's earlier words: "What comedians do is point in the opposite direction of the answers. They behave incorrectly, and in doing so become the contrast to what you really want."

And Jim quickly made that very clear: "No, no no. That's not the moral of the story. What I'm trying to say is that this kind of entertainment doesn't have to be a bore. If you want to get your consciousness and spiritual ideas into something make it taste good. Make it entertaining and more people will come.  

"The meaning of life. Wanna know what it is? Love yourself. That's it. And be visible. Be honest.  

"I wish you all the best in everything you're doing.  

"And believe in miracles, because they do happen!"

And with that, the conference ended and we all filed out inspired, energized and singing John Lennon's Imagine!

Photos - Michael Arden
Photo of Paul Ray - Cathy Elliot

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©2012 Arthur Kanegis
©2012 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine - Arthur Kanegis
Arthur Kanegis is a screenwriter and producer. He is President of Future WAVE (Working for Alternatives to Violence through Entertainment.) He is also President of One Films, LLC, and his award winning short film can be seen at www.onefilms.com. See also www.e-arth.com.


For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives

 

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