So, in case you didn’t know, I’m a huge admirer of Ayn Rand. (And a few of you who did not know may have just defriended, unfollowed and generally banned my name from being spoken in your presence. I’m prepared to live with that.) Agree or disagree with her views, I don’t think you can claim that anyone in popular discourse (and certainly no other bestselling novelist) has quite so clearly presented the argument against collectivist thought as Ms. Rand. That’s why so many people dislike her work so intensely.
But I grew up being told that joining the herd, or letting others control you, is a bad thing. The herd mentality provided the motive force behind movements like Nazism and Soviet Communism. When I was growing up, everyone around me accepted that those philosophies were wrong. They were the philosophies of people who wanted to harm us. As I grew and developed my own personal moral philosophy, I concluded it was both sensible and moral to resist any attempt by others to make me conform to their ideals of what made a good person, or to make me live to serve their ends. When I discovered Ayn Rand’s powerful arguments, which supported what I believed, I became a fan. I especially loved Atlas Shrugged.
Naturally, I’ve seen both of the film adaptations of her magnum opus. I reviewed Atlas Shrugged Part II: The Strike a while back. Equally naturally (Double-adverb–Elmore Leonard is turning over in his grave. Spinning, even) Ahem… Equally naturally, I’m very excited to see these films in theaters. I made the 40-mile trek to a limited release (in the pouring rain, of course) of the first, and was pleased to see the second shown on a screen at all the large plexes near my home. I’m downright ecstatic to know that Part III is underway, under the just-announced title referenced above.
But you can imagine it’s not easy to get these films made. How do you sell, to an audience that wants more explosions, more bare flesh, more wisecracks and less thought in every film, a movie about a man who wants to stop the motor of the world? How do you bring to theaters audiences who spend 23 hours a day listening to their leaders promise them bread and circuses, and get them to watch a movie which says the bread ain’t free and the circus stunts are all phony? Especially when the movie studios are one of the major funding machines of the leaders whom the film is lampooning?
You can sell 1984, because audiences can pretend it’s really making fun of Hitler or Stalin, or, at the very least, the last President who didn’t belong to their party. You can sell Animal Farm, because, after all, we love talking animals. But how do you sell Atlas Shrugged? It’s not an allegory, and it’s not mostly showing you dictators in vaguely foreign societies. It’s a story about the collapse of the United States, in which our leaders and their ideologies are at fault for our demise. How do you sell that?
As the producers of this series of movies have happily discovered, you sell it to the people who want to buy it. You don’t try to use this meaty philosophical piece to sell Coca Cola. You don’t ask a multi-billionaire media mogul who’s very happy with the moocher-and-looter world we live in to back it with his billions. You don’t hire marketing firms to tell people they love this movie. You say to people who want to hear, think about and share a real message, “Hey, I’m doing this. Who’s with me?”
Via Kickstarter, Facebook and Twitter, via their website, and via their membership-based discussion forum, Galt’s Gulch, the team behind the cinematic realization of Atlas Shrugged have reached out directly to the audience. At one level, that’s the same kind of thing I do, or my friends at Crazy 8 Press do, or most of the podcasting and DIY community does. But we’re all playing on a fairly small board. By virtue of the fact that they’re selling a movie based on book that’s sold over 6 million copies, these guys are playing on a very big board. They’re still, though, using the very direct and very immediate tools also used by the DIY community to reach their audience.
Apparently, that’s working out well for them. Scott DeSapio, Associate Producer for the Atlas Shrugged films, says, in answer to a question I posed yesterday:
“Having direct access to audience members has changed the landscape entirely. It’s a two way conversation now, it’s interactive. And, with our audience especially, it’s a not just part of our strategy, it’s THE strategy. Our base means everything to us. GaltsGulchOnline.com has been our goto source for feedback. And that bunch pulls no punches.
“We know, without question, if we can bring an accurate representation of Atlas Shrugged to the screen, they’ll go home and tell their friends to go see the movie – just as they’ve been telling their friends all these years to read the book – and they’ll go online and talk about it. Making a movie specifically for the fans of the book is our path to success.”
A Kickstarter campaign was launch for Atlas Shrugged III this morning, not to raise money to film (production costs have been met), but to give audience members a chance to fund and collaborate in marketing the project. Similarly, audience members can join a paid “Producers Only” club at Galt’s Gulch Online, giving them member benefits, while they’re also contributing financially to the effort.
It’s a worthy effort in support of a worthy project. I wish them continued success, and plan to do my part to help them along.