When the Revolution Doesn't Come: A Young Filmmaker on Arts and Activism

The Grey Movie is the coming-of-age story of three young activists, Gene, Zach and Sammy, who come together to try and end the war in Iraq. They are members of "The Organization," a short-lived student movement that aimed to foment a revolution in the United States through mass demonstration, street theater and confrontation with the police. The Organization chose the color grey to represent the ever-adapting nature of their ideology, and I borrow it for the film's title to explore our society's own, often ambiguous attitudes toward radical activism.

As a recipient of Cinereach's Reach Film Fellowship, I had the fortune of being advised by Albert Maysles during the production of The Grey Movie. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to receive guidance from such a legendary filmmaker, whose prolific body of work — including the iconic Gimme Shelter — has delved deeply into the turbulence of the 1960s, an era known for the same turmoil, resistance, and idealism we explore in The Grey Movie.

Albert has never shied away from subjects of broad social relevance, and for more than half a century his films have revealed hidden worlds ranging from the dying art of door-to-door salesmanship (Salesman) to extreme poverty in the American South (LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton). Yet his messages are always told through the intimate lens of his camera, and his worldview filtered through the eyes of his subjects. As we showed him our footage from The Grey Movie, he advised us to always focus our story on our characters, and that before our film can be about social justice, it must first be about human beings.

Though Gene, Zach and Sammy's tactics were often misguided and their animosity sometimes misplaced, The Grey Movie searches for beauty in their naïveté and impatience for creating a better world. Through their eyes, we examine the state of dissent and apathy in the U.S. today, and ask what happens to these young idealists when their revolution never comes. As their paths diverge — Sammy turns to music, Gene to dumpster diving and Zach to paramedic training — we see that each struggles to incorporate their passion into their adult lives. Inevitably, the loss of the political revolution gives way to personal evolution, but the war in Iraq still rages on.

I look forward to ongoing mentorship from Albert Maysles, and to follow his lead — and forge my own path — in fostering a better world for many, by illuminating the stories of a few. I hope The Grey Movie serves to pose the questions that I have asked myself throughout my own evolution as an activist and documentary filmmaker: Is trying to stop a war impossible? Or is it only impossible when we stop trying?

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Additional credits for The Grey Movie:
Editor/Co-Producer: Jordan Forkey
Associate Producer: Justin Thomas
Directors of Photography: John Mattiuzzi & Phil Buccellato
Additional Camera: Rob Pappadake
Production Coordinator: Dorothea Lemme
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