In 2014, a short film with a few big names and a far reach made a big difference. Admissions, written by John Viscount and starring James Cromwell, won over 25 awards. Over 80 million people watched the film, which was translated into five languages and used as a demonstrative call to action by humanitarians and world leaders.
Sharon Stone was one of the social activists struck by the film’s profound message of peace in response to much of the turmoil we currently see in the world — particularly in the Middle East. John Viscount, “who wrote Admissions as a personal response to 9/11 and the rising amount of conflict in our world,” has written yet another script with a poignant message. Once again, Sharon Stone has come along for the ride. Only this time, she’s riding shotgun.
Though filming has yet to begin, Viscount, Cromwell and Stone are returning, along with Gavin Behrman (currently working on BladeRunner 2) with another concentrated effort to bring the topic of peace into a realm where many people come for explosions. The Principle is a film they plan to a present to a worthy audience. As it turns out, that means … you. Everyone. Why everyone?
In the same vein as Viscount’s past film, The Principle brings a message that all people are worthy of the respect they are willing to give. It is, in essence, a movie about the mean-spiritedness that develops before children grow up to become embittered, to become terrorists, to become all of the divisive men and women we tell ourselves to fear.
In The Principle, Stone plays an educator caught in the dilemma faced by so many in the scholarly field today: how to combat cyber-bullying. How do you fight something you can’t see, or prevent actions that occur from behind the safety of a computer screen? Yet this is an issue that any parent today knows is all too real.
As of yet, the film has not reached its funding milestone of a $250,000 budget, along with additional funds to launch “an accompanying social impact campaign,” in the words of Viscount. Viscounts efforts have been supported and thus accelerated, in no small part, by the interest of Stone and the organization PeaceNow, which seeks to create Peace Departments that engage local and international governments in peace talks and negotiations within foreign policy and education.
“When Global Humanitarian, Sharon Stone, saw Admissions, she reached out to me and told me it was her favorite film of the year,” Viscount explained, “and asked me to write a similar dramatic parable for her centered on the rapidly spreading problem of cyber-bullying.”
He elaborated, Admissions and The Principle are complimentary pieces designed to work together and are the first two installments of our “films for peace” series ONE Film Company is doing for PeaceNow.com.
“I have also adapted the scripts into a three-act play called The Resolution which merges profound philosophical teachings, high drama, and social activism, while promoting our one billion-signature campaign at PeaceNow.com to create peace departments in governments worldwide. The debut production of The Resolution is in March, 2016 at theSho Art, Spirit & Performance Theater in Windsor, Ontario, and will be directed by Dr. Barry Brodie.”
Considering that Viscount has written a book called Mind What Matters. A Pep Talk for Humanity, and leads seminars based on content from the Admissions film, it’s no wonder that he’s the force behind a series of films focused on topics of ethical treatment.
But what is ethical treatment? We throw the words around all the time, and yet ethics seem to differ from culture to culture, from subgroup to subgroup. Well, part of maintaining peace, according to Viscount, is throwing out that “us versus them” mentality.
“The core message of The Principle is that if you truly want to heal our world, you can’t just love the victim. You have to love the bully, too. The world has an unfortunate tendency to forget that people who become bullies often do so because they have an absence of love in their heart. When people are filled with love, bullying words and actions rarely come out of them. So it is important to listen to bullies and understand where their suffering is and then work to remove their suffering so love can take its place in their heart. Love is much more powerful than hatred so usually when people fully experience love, hatred is often left behind for good.”
The thoughtfulness behind these words doesn’t make for a good, quick soundbite or an NPR special, but it makes for an excellent film.
That’s partly because the film’s message is “universal,” said Viscount. “The teachings in the film … can apply just as easily to the schoolyard and the Internet as they do to international relations between countries.”
Much like the previous film, Admissions, this movie won’t cut much time out of your day. As a final product, it’s less than a half an hour long. This, according to Viscount, “leaves lots of time after screenings for enlightening discussions.”
“In this way,” he said, “The Principle will hopefully serve to engage members of the audience on a deep level and inspire them to become social activists for the cause of peace, both in their own lives and the world at large.”
Every talk show host these days seems to, at one point, have addressed the growing problem of aggressive bullying. We even had a major movie about it, which was controversial not for its content but its rating. Perhaps the discussion has only begun, as the problem extends far beyond the schoolyard.
In his email interview, Viscount wrote, “Cyber-bullying is a much bigger problem than traditional bullying because victims can be abused 24 hours a day before an audience of millions. Tragically, an increasing number of cyber-bullying victims resort to suicide to escape the torment they are experiencing.”
He’s right. No one can argue that we haven’t seen far too many stories of teens killing themselves because they have no escape from the malice they find at school, and the lack of support they feel everywhere else.
While researching for the film, those behind The Principle found that the ease with which bullies can continually target their victims via social media has increased the prevalence and severity of what was once simply regarded a trademark of growing up. Viscount and his team discovered that no fewer than 40 percent of children report being bullied online, and of those bullied a fourth of them say it has occurred on more than one occasion.
“With such high stakes,” Viscount continued, “kindness and compassion must be taught at an early age so children can develop the good social habits that are required to have positive relationships that form the foundation of rewarding lives.”
He praised his supporter, and the star of The Princple, saying, “Sharon Stone is very wise and has dedicated her life to humanitarian work that addresses the world’s problems, so she asked me to use the power of film to address this devastating plague of the digital age. One film with positive messages that goes viral can reach more hearts and minds than one million classes on the same subject. Therefore, we feel film is an effective way to offer empowering perspectives that work to heal cyber-bullying.”
Using technology to spread a message about the proper way to use technology seems like a noble endeavor indeed.
If you agree, and would like to send your questions, comments, and other sparks of interest to those involved with this project, write to email@example.com. To back your words up with a little monetary action, check out the Kickstarter link, found here: http://kck.st/1NwW67c. The deadline for Kickstarter donations is February 2nd, giving Groundhog’s Day a whole new level of significance for schoolchildren everywhere.
Hopefully, we’ll just stop seeing the shadow.
Photos provided by John Viscount unless otherwise noted.
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.