Politics

Five Movies Rick Santorum Should Make Tomorrow

Doesn’t Margaret Sanger deserve a biography?

By 5.28.14

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I argued last week that Rick Santorum ought to drop any pretense of a long-shot 2016 presidential bid to focus on turning EchoLight Studios, the filmmaking outfit he runs, into the next blockbuster factory. That generated a bit of a discussion with Quin Hillyer, one of Santorum’s more well-known supporters (a summation of which can be found here)—but it’s worth exploring further how Santorum could make an impact upstream from politics.

The primary reason conservatives are struggling at the ballot box, particularly in presidential elections that attract many low-information and less-engaged voters, is that liberals dominate the cultural media. Hollywood’s impact on how Americans see themselves and the world is almost incalculable, and for two generations that vision has been exceedingly leftist—and even anti-American.

James O’Keefe’s most recent sting video was instructive in the extreme. Last week, O’Keefe released an exposé in which his associates presented a group of prominent Hollywood environmentalist lefties with what should have been an unappetizing moral dilemma—$9 million in investment for an anti-fracking movie, but with the source being an Arab oil sheikh who made it quite clear his funds were aimed at shutting down American domestic energy to keep this country dependent on Middle Eastern oil. O’Keefe’s video, which was the first in a series (the second installment might already be posted by the time you read this piece), shows that the anti-frackers in question—actors Ed Begley, Jr. and Muriel Hemingway and director Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca—had no compunction whatsoever with taking the sheikh’s money. They just wanted to make sure nobody knew their film was funded with petrodollars from hostile places.

Little wonder. Anti-fracking movies don’t make any money, but Arabs are willing to lose a few million on them to convince Americans that the drilling technique is unsafe. Ask Matt Damon and John Krasinski, who took a few dirhams from Image Nation Abu Dhabi to finance the excrementitious 2012 film Promised Land, a piece of faux-environmentalist agitprop about a natural gas landman attempting to lease up a small town for its shale gas deposits, but who ultimately decides he can no longer abide the moral infirmities of his job. (A plot summary, complete with spoilers, here.) Promised Land was an unmitigated bomb, grossing just $7.5 million at the American box office and even less overseas. It didn’t even cover its meager $15 million production budget.

But Image Nation Abu Dhabi and the anti-fracking crowd had a feature-length film to tell a story about how hydraulic fracturing ruins farmland and how natural gas companies wanting to produce domestic energy are the devil. And while Promised Land didn’t draw flies at the box office, it’s been in heavy rotation on HBO in the past several weeks. Before all is said and done there will be lots of people who see that movie—some percentage of whom will come to the conclusion that Fracking Is Bad News Because Matt Damon Told Me So.

Mission accomplished.

There is a reason airtime for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl go for upwards of $2 million; getting a message in front of that many eyes, even for half a minute, can change human behavior. Those Super Bowl spots aim to change culture, not politics, and they work.

Rick Santorum is committed to moving the public debate. He has access to deep-pocketed investors. And he now sits at the levers of a film production company. What if Santorum were to go to the big-money donors from his 2012 campaign, like half-billionaire Foster Friess, and convince them to capitalize a series of “message” films to rival the Promised Lands of the world?

If nothing else, it would be an interesting experiment to turn the plot of Damon’s movie on its head. Would you be willing to see a Jimmy Stewart-style flick about the itinerant landman hawking natural gas leases from town to town and bringing prosperity everywhere he goes, who alights upon a downtrodden town with the richest shale around, does battle with a dishonest environmentalist shill funded by Arab oil sheikhs and ultimately falls in love and settles down with the daughter of the John Deere dealer whose livelihood is saved by shale gas riches? It’s a decent bet that you might, if for no other reason outside of the novelty of a movie actually extolling the virtues of American commerce.

Get started thinking about the potential hit movies Hollywood leftists would never make, and it’s hard to stop. A few other ideas…

• What about Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II coming together to help the Solidarity movement in Poland take down the communist Jaruzelski government? How would that do at the Eastern European box office? Particularly now that the Poles, Latvians, Ukrainians and others feel a new Russian menace. Such a film, if well-made, might do fairly well here at home, too.

• Doesn’t Margaret Sanger deserve a biography? How about a brutally accurate one that reminds viewers of her frequent appearances at Ku Klux Klan rallies?

• Speaking of biographies, Spike Lee spent some three hours of his audience’s time on one of Malcolm X, whose achievements at the end of the day were exceedingly meager. Shouldn’t Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, two of the world’s truly outstanding civil rights leaders, deserve similar friendly treatment?

• What about a movie telling the story of the St. Joseph’s Abbey monks of Covington, Louisiana, whose work to support themselves making wooden caskets ran afoul of the funeral home lobby and a ridiculous state law banning the selling of caskets without an embalming license? The court case the monks ultimately won might make for a quirky comedy with a hard-hitting message about crony capitalism and economic freedom.

• For that matter, what about a film about a rideshare company like Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar battling against a mobbed-up taxi industry and bureaucratic crooks in local governments around the country? That could make for an interesting two hours.

There are literally hundreds of ideas for movies that could draw audiences and move the culture, and ultimately politics. Karl Rove and American Crossroads spent enough money on thirty-second TV spots in 2012 to make a dozen such films. Did all those advertisements make a difference? Or were the soccer moms they intended to turn into Republican voters too busy watching Lifetime movies to get the message?

Santorum has all the tools necessary to make such an impact. Here’s hoping that instead of launching a 2016 bid, he gets busy with that project.

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About the Author

Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics.