“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Many believe that art, in its various forms, should always represent that which is “good” for us. It should promote the right values, not the wrong ones. It should represent a world we are striving for, not the world we actually live in.
I have never seen that as the role of art in society. Art registers on a deeper level, and reveals something that is inherently true within ourselves.
Whether that truth conforms to the current popular ideology is irrelevant. This is partly why great art is often misjudged in its time, but ends up enduring for future generations; because truth is not a fad, but a constant.
I recently released a short film, “Dread Pirate Roberts,” that puts these ideas of moral ambiguity to the test.
The film is based on the true story of Ross Ulbricht, a young man who founded the first darknet marketplace and is currently serving a double-life sentence for his anti-state crimes.
By only using what is ostensibly his real-world blog posts as narration, I leave it up to the audience to make their own conclusions about Ross.
The result has been incredibly engaging and equally polarizing, which I consider a success.
I miss films that engage an audience’s moral barometer. Think films like “Taxi Driver” and “A Clockwork Orange.” They force us to re-examine our sense of right and wrong, allowing us to make up our own mind on the subject matter.
The answer to the moral question is not overtly or conveniently revealed at the end of the film, but instead, requires us to make our own judgment. This requires an unfettered portrayal of a morally ambiguous main character, and a bit of mental gymnastics from the viewer.
Two things that are seemingly unpopular in our current culture.
An interviewer recently asked Martin Scorsese what advice he would give to young filmmakers trying to succeed in the industry. His answer? “Make your own industry.”
In an increasingly decentralized world, where the gatekeepers have less power than ever, and distribution continues to democratize, there has never been more ways to get your art seen.
To further this cause of creative expression without corporate oversight, I started a production outfit called Thoughtcrime. The goal is to produce “cinema” for the Internet appetite. This means shorter run-times and quick attention grabbers.
Most people in the industry look down on Internet content for this reason. I think it’s merely the next iteration of the medium.
“Dread Pirate Roberts” is the first of many projects under the Thoughtcrime banner. I’ll be taking my time between each project; not obsessing over “likes and subscribes” but instead, over quality and long-lasting creative choices.
The legacy of “new media” is still being written, and I’d much rather be a part of the decentralized future than the box-office past.
Readers can support the Thoughtcrimes mission via Patreon.
Daniel Algarin is an L.A.-based director.