March 28, 2012
Mr. Harvey Weinstein
The Weinstein Company
Dear Mr. Weinstein:
I have been reading of late about your struggle with the Motion Picture Association of America over the ‘R’ rating given to the film Bully, which you will now release, in two days, unrated. While doing so is normally box office poison, I have read that AMC Theaters have agreed to show the film despite its lack of MPAA sanction, recognizing the educational and social value of the film; hopefully all others will follow suit. Fortunately, the publicity surrounding your confrontation with the MPAA has no doubt added to public awareness of the film, building upon the growing awareness in the country of the insidious and escalating harm that bullying causes to our country’s children, and countering the negative marketplace effects that an unrated film can face.
From all of the advance press I’ve read, the filmmakers have produced a remarkable film, and you are to be applauded for buying the rights to it last summer. Indeed, you had to suffer through the initial round of press which sought to have fun at your expense, commenting repeatedly that there is an irony in someone so often portrayed as a bully championing an anti-bullying project. But you are no doubt strong enough to have weathered the brickbats, as you have before in the press, and you have worked on behalf of what is by all accounts a valuable and important film. Indeed, “bullying” seems too tame a term for the apparently systematic torture that many youths suffer for a variety of reasons, all of which must be brought to a stop.
But something is nagging at me, namely: where will the profits go on this film? I looked on the website, and while it describes the film as having been financed in part by foundations, and lists partnerships on both the film and The Bully Project behind it, I saw no message that profits from the film would be donated to anti-bullying efforts. I tried, but could not find it. I did find, with a bit of hunting, a page that allowed individuals to donate to the Creative Visions Foundation, a non-profit partner to the film.
I realize that your company is not a not-for-profit, but please, Mr. Weinstein, please tell me that you are not going to make a profit from this film. Please tell me that you will meet your acquisition, distribution and marketing costs and the rest of your profits will go entirely towards further efforts to combat this apparent epidemic. I would like to “like” the film on Facebook, I want people to see this film if it is as effective as people are saying, but I bridle at the thought that someone might be profiting from its release. Please tell me what is happening in that regard. Put the opportunity to donate to fight bulling right there on the film’s home page, along with a declaration of where the film’s revenues will go.
Frankly, you have an even broader opportunity, one that could be of even greater benefit to bullied children and teens everywhere, and which would also reflect your altruistic, rather than capitalistic, goals. Why not figure out how to make this movie available for free? Would the theatre owners consider this? Could you partner with a broadcast TV network (for greater access)? Could it be downloaded as free content online? If the point of the film is indeed the message, shouldn’t it be as broadly available as possible, without regard to the economic ability of those who might benefit to pay to see it? With a call to action at its end, even more money could be raised for anti-bullying efforts, whether through The Bully Project or other initiatives.
I realize that this seems a naive position, and no one would accuse me of being naive. But with a non-fiction film that is reportedly free of partisan political content, one which could literally mean life or death for untold numbers of youths, maybe this is the moment to aspire to something greater than box office returns. I can afford to pay to see your film, and I will, but I’m thinking of all of those who can’t – and should. You can truly elevate a movement here, not just release a film. I hope you will.
once a target for bullies