In the turn pager novel, Five Came Back by Mark Harris, we learn of the story of five Hollywood directors, (Oscar winners), who signed up to help the US’ war efforts in WWII.
It all ends sombrely. Frank Capra, one of the most acclaimed directors of his time with films like Mr Deeds goes to Town and Mr Smith goes to Washington would die somewhat heartbroken. His first and only independent film with his company Liberty films after returning from the war, failed to ignite audiences.
It’s a wonderful life starring James Stewart whom reimagines life anew aided by an angel was so badly received the studio let its copyright lapse. Of course it’s since become a christmas favourite, but why oh why did audiences turn their back on the film?
After the war, culture and society shifted. Audiences craved social realism, and as Harris writes “Eventually his [ Capra’s] belief that movies should be uplifting calcified into didacticism”. As artists, entrepreneurs, journalists et al, everything we do must take in mind the audience, that we know. Being certain they’ll respond is less predictable.
Antithetical thinking comes easily for some groups whose approach to problem solving can involve high risks, but what makes it formidable is the combination of youth and the mode to think in a fresh, unconformed manner, resilience and the cognitivism to decode patterns, combined with robust analysis.
As a journalist/ digital storytelling, I sell stories and the mindset underpinning them, and whilst my profession likes to put clear air between the business of selling in PR and rightly their motivations, the end game for storytelling is the same: engage, make it memorable, act, and return for business.
My expertise revolves around a sphere of storytelling; the alpha of the moving image, cinema, where through the works of others I have been able to establish a third ground, itself antithetical to the status quo, where journalism and cinema live healthily.
Whilst everyone is generally thinking one way, the antithetical thinkers muse the possibilities of constant movement against the grain. It’s not as simple as it sounds because we generally and naturally work towards causality — a sort of Newtonian logic. If someone pushes me, I’ll push them back. Antithetical thinking is more quantum. I’ll do something different. You’re the misfit, according to Michaela Coel who delivered this year’s MacTaggart Lecture.
The war had made audiences more conscientious of conditions and frivolity, almost soon after events wouldn’t cut it. It needed time. Capra’s friend Willie Wyler’s The Best Years of our Lives about servicemen readjusting to life after the war swept the academy.
What can be learned from this? Firstly methods towards innovation. Secondly, substrates or critical elements that likely alter the mood of society are observable. Thirdly that the codes for these moods lie in a multiplicity of other themed material. The audience’s anxiety could come from the media’s portrayal of events.
Today, in several cohesive society it’s easy to detect a smorgasbord of different views, but antitheticals are lone voices, and furthermore are less impulsed by being different for difference sake, but appear to telegraph behaviours and patterns ahead of us.
Take Sanj Mahal’s digital platform, AndCo. The norm at the moment is for freelancers to look for space to work at venues like Wework, but what if you can’t afford their fees. Similarly restaurants and bars lie empty because of a downturn in the economy. What if you could marry the two constituents, freelancers working out of bars, where they’re not forced to drink or eat.
The Human Library brings people together to read each other rather than books. And if you ever wanted to put together a conference on diversity, trying inverting the makeup and panelists of what would be the normal constituents and let youth tell you what you should be afraid of. And that’s nothing!