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Blog Posts

Confessions of a Working Director - July 14, 2009


This past weekend, a bunch of the team got together for a cleaning day at the Wicked Pixel Cinema offices.  I know what you're thinking: "You guys are big-time movie producers, sleeping at night on giant piles of money.  Don't you hire a cleaning staff to do that for you?"  Short answer: No. 

Everyone here pitches in to do the awesome stuff as well as the shitty stuff, including me.  Jason Christ, Trevor Williams, Gus Stevenson, Jim Wayer, our new intern Emily Brown, and I all worked hard to scrub up this joint.  Coming in the next day to a freshly cleaned building was awesome.

Also over the weekend, we had a meeting about the near-future launch of some cool new Wicked Pixel Cinema merchandise.  Jim has been talking to the awesome folks at about handling our new t-shirt designs.  I'm pretty excited about this new business relationship we're cultivating, as well as the new design work I'm seeing, and also about the fact that our new designs will be printed on American Apparel shirts.  For updates about all this, visit here often.

In my last blog, I went into some details about the development of the Ratline story and screenplay.  Part of our objective was to permeate the movie with moral ambiguity - spreading the characters evenly across the spectrum of good to bad, and not letting any character be simply a good guy or a bad guy.

One element of this moral ambiguity is the Nazi Germany part of Ratline's narrative.  With recent exceptions, Hollywood has tended to paint this era of world history in black and white.  We were the good guys and they were the bad guys.  In reality, the good / bad line was blurry, which inspires the moral ambiguity of Ratline

Jason Christ, who co-wrote Ratline with me, is not a fan of war films like I am.  I believe he sees "the war film" as violence based on real life, not fantasy, and skewed in such a way that killing a human being is presented as a good thing, generally a morally repugnant stance.  In other words, when John Wayne killed a "damn Jap" it was designed to be a stand-up-and-cheer moment, not a call to reflect on the horrors of war.

Certainly, I agree with the general world sentiment that the good guys won the Second World War, and that justice was served.  However, we do have a tendency to zone in on the wartime atrocities committed by the Germans and the Japanese, and use these events to dismiss the atrocities committed by Allied forces.  In addition to their military and industrial targets, the American and British forces bombed civilian targets.  This was an openly accepted tactic - it was considered "demoralizing the enemy."

The easiest way to paint the Nazis as The Ultimate Bad Guy is to use the eugenics brush.  Eugenics is the practice of controlled breeding to nurture desirable traits in a gene pool, and to discourage / eliminate undesirable traits.  Or, as Hitler tried to do, eliminate categories of people which he found undesirable.

The Nazis performed forced sterilization of mentally or physically handicapped people, and eventually built momentum with an aggressive euthanasia program, murdering all children born with undesirable traits.  These practices quickly extended to the killing of as many Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Czechs, homosexuals, and mentally and physically handicapped as possible, most notoriously in the SS concentration camps.

The part of the tale that history seldom tells is that Hitler was inspired and educated by eugenics theories and practices developed in England and America.  Germany took it to nightmarish extremes, but those extremes were born of a mentality shared by much of the world.  There was a time when eugenics was taught at many colleges and universities, its advancement was well-funded from many sources, and it was promoted by many governments all over the world, including the U.S. government. 

Here in America, eugenics was encouraged in the form of limiting marriage and breeding.  For example, a woman would be discouraged from getting a marriage license if her fiancé's uncle was an alcoholic, or if his cousin had committed a violent crime, or if a member of the groom-to-be's family had cancer.  There were laws in many US states that made it illegal to marry someone who was "epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded."  The primary objective of the US Government in these measures was to breed out human attributes that would financially burden the government - as in, fewer tax dollars would have to be spent on health care, crime prevention, and criminal rehabilitation if such problems were simply eliminated "in advance."

Only after the ghoulish Nazi death camps became public knowledge, was there a global recoiling from eugenics.  Today, we see the Nazis as the trailblazers of a hate-fueled pseudoscience that the rest of the world never contributed to.  But, in reality, we did.

I am not a weirdo hippy liberal who thinks no war should ever have happened.  I agree with the notion that violence is the only universal deterrent.  To deny that fact is to be naïve.  I believe in taking lives to save greater numbers.  I don't judge the emotions or actions of those tasked with fighting wars.  I only have moral opposition to the reasons why some wars are fought.  If terror, bloodshed, and loss of human life is due to the greed and/or incompetence of a few leaders, then obviously, I oppose the waging of war.  But if both sides must suffer great losses, both military and civilian, in the defeat a dangerous foe, so that justice may be served, I'm all for it. 

I also know that it's naïve to believe that any blood on our hands will go away if we refuse to acknowledge it.

As an artist interested in making movies that, in addition to the fun stuff, stimulate a few brain cells as well, I am drawn to war.  Is it because, unlike Jason, I really enjoy seeing John Wayne kill a Japanese person?  No... 

It is because I find war fascinating in that it brings out the best and worst in people, without letting anyone be the best or the worst.

Thanks for reading.

Eric Stanze