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L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE

Number 830, July 19, 2015

A weapon in every hand;
freedom on every side.
—F. Paul Wilson


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Alongside Night and Libertarian Movies
by J. Neil Schulman
jneil@jesulu.com

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I write this the day after the 2015 Anthem Libertarian Film Festival closed without playing the most focused, hard-core and just-released libertarian movie—the one based on my novel of the same title, the only one where the libertarian author also wrote, produced, and directed the adapted movie—my own movie, Alongside Night.

Anthem Film Festival

So why should anyone else give a damn? Why should even I give a damn when Alongside Night was one of the opening-night movies previewed in a rough cut at the 2013 Freedomfest that hosts the Anthem Film Festival and a few days ago my movie just had its commercial release the same weekend as the 2015 Anthem Film Festival/Freedomfest as a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack ... and from all indications my movie has a bright future in multiple-venue and multiple platform distribution?

Alongside Night Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack cover

It's because I'm one of that rare breed of novelists, screenwriters, and directors able to package a commercial-grade story with core libertarian themes that can also entertain people who disagree with its ideas. People who haven't done any of this but are in positions of critical judgment over the artistic output of those like us who have done it need to pay attention.

I have four decades in as a celebrated libertarian novelist with major celebrity endorsements, awards, and reviews on my books; also as a libertarian editor and book publisher; a journalist and opinion writer published in major newspapers and magazines; screenwriter for primetime network TV; and I also won three film-festival awards for the first feature film, Lady Magdalene's, that I produced, wrote, and directed—including a "Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Values" given to me at the 2011 Anthem Film Festival. Got that? The very libertarian film festival that I'm calling out here already gave me an award and its parent convention already played my movie that they rejected as unworthy.

Here's the Anthem Film Festival's description on Amazon.com's Withoutabox website inviting filmmakers to submit:

U.S. Narrative Feature
Narrative features must highlight a libertarian theme. They can be any genre—comedy, drama, action, mystery, etc. They must present a problem created by authoritarian control and resolved by personal innovation or free enterprise. The theme may be subtle. The authority could be a parent, employer, or school board, for example; it does not have to be a government. We are looking for films that celebrate individual initiative, personal accountability, and self-reliance.

Say what else you want about Alongside Night as a movie. Maybe you don't like my storytelling, my directing, the acting performances, the editing, the music, the visual effects. But if you're a libertarian wanting your values to compete in the marketplace with movies carrying anti-libertarian content and promoting anti-libertarian themes, you still have to acknowledge that the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival's call for entries describes Alongside Night. If Alongside Night had played at the 2015 Anthem Film Festival it would have been the only narrative feature film this year.

After receiving 300 film submissions the Anthem Film Festival did not select to screen a single narrative feature film—that means a feature-length movie telling a fictitious or fictionalized story, whether drama or comedy—at its 2015 festival. It played only documentaries and short films that usually appeal only to academics and indie film buffs—movies that with rare exception never have commercial appeal to a wide audience.

For a thriller like Alongside Night with a star-driven cast of actors with major film and TV credits, a film score by a composer with credits in dozens of major Hollywood movies and recorded by the National Symphony of Ukraine, visual effects done by a team that did effects for James Cameron's Titanic, and produced, written, and directed by the only libertarian-feted author who crossed over into being a libertarian feature filmmaker—the only major libertarian movie release this season—not to play at the only film festival claiming to be libertarian is disgusting. That's a true statement even when made by the subject of that observation, himself.

I don't need the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival for my movie to succeed both in finding its audience and getting noticed in the media. See my article "Making Liberty Go Viral."

Las Vegas Weekly article by Josh Bell

But I already saw a previous attempt at a libertarian film festival—Jason Apuzzo and Govinda Murty's 2004-2008 Liberty Film Festival go under as soon as it aligned itself with the neocon David Horowitz Freedom Center.

This year's FreedomFest, run by Anthem festival director Jo Ann Skousen's husband, Mark Skousen—allowed GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump and Marco Rubio a keynote platform speech at the convention without having a libertarian interlocutor to challenge them on their anti-libertarian positions.

A festival representing itself as pro-liberty—and that's both Freedomfest and the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival—needs what Andy Levy said about me on Fox News' Red Eye—"full-on" libertarians who don't soften their expression to appeal to liberals in the media or conservatives inside the beltway.

As I already said, I don't need Freedomfest or the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival. I can get my movie out without their help.

Official Alongside Night Movie Website

But we do need libertarian conventions and film festivals in general to popularize libertarian ideas and get them traction in the mainstream culture.

If Jo Ann and Mark Skousen are not to follow Jason Apuzzo and Govinda Murty into having their outreach diverted by statists in libertarian clothing, they'd better pay attention to why I have a successful four-decade career as a libertarian breaking through into the mainstream media: New York and London book publishers, the Los Angeles Times book review and opinion pages, magazines like National Review and Reason, CBS prime-time network television, and now commercial movie outlets.

I already posted on the Freedomfest Facebook page a suggestion for \ next-year speakers.

Freedomfest Speaker suggestions

I strongly advise them to stop using trivial differences of personal taste or marginalization of the undiluted libertarian expression as a reason to sabotage their own core mission of popularizing "free minds and free markets" and to take my decades of experience into account.

They might also take into account that if Pat Heller and I had not run into each other at FreedomFest in 2011 when I got my Anthem award for Lady Magdalene's, Alongside Night never would have secured the financing to get made.

Alongside Night Executive Producer Patrick A. Heller with Anthem Film Festival Director Jo Ann Skousen
Alongside Night Executive Producer Patrick A. Heller
with Anthem Libertarian Film Festival Director Jo Ann Skousen
Photo Courtesy of Liberty's Outlook

Like or not, Mark and Jo Ann Skousen are godparents to the movie production of Alongside Night.

Postscript July 18, 2015:

In email correspondence following our public exchange of comments Jo Ann and Mark Skousen wished to make clear that they do not in any way endorse my films, and I wished to make clear that the film festival run by Jo Ann Skousen judges libertarian content in films to be anathema. Mark Skousen also wrote that I'm quickly becoming persona non grata at FreedomFest. If FreedomFest does not reverse its course and stop providing higher profile platforms for Republicans and Neocons than hard-core Rothbardian/LeFevrian/Konkinian libertarians, that will be a badge of honor.

Reprinted from J. Neil Schulman @ Agorist.com
© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved. Web and email links with attribution permitted and encouraged. Other reprints permitted only with prior permission of the author.


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