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DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT - JEREMY KAGAN

Jeremy KaganI would like this movie to save a life.

I realize that's quite a goal. It's hard enough just to provide people with 90 minutes of engaging entertainment. But as I am now dealing with the distribution of the movie after the many years it took to make it, I recognize even more intensely that this in fact is the goal, and what an excellent goal it is.

For this movie is about gun violence. And if this movie helps someone not to use the gun, or not have a gun used on them, then the movie really did something.

The issue of gun violence has disturbed me and so many other Americans for decades. And increasingly it has become an epidemic in our society. Too many people are shot and killed by guns every day in our country. I am a moviemaker so this is one way I am responding to this pressing problem. And from the research I have done with my Change Making Media Lab, I have learned that telling a captivating dramatic narrative is the most effective form of cinematic influence, so I chose to make a dramatic movie rather than a documentary.

In many spiritual teachings it's been said that what happens to one person happens to us all. I wanted to make a movie that would have the viewer experience what we would go through if we were shot. And I wanted us – the viewer – to be the “hero” in this movie experience. This is not about superheroes, this is about the average person – and what happens to us when something occurs because of gun violence.

This movie has been in the works since 2010 and in many ways it's been in the works since I started making movies and maybe even since I was born.

Like most post World War II young boys I grew up with gun slinging cowboys as my heroes and excitedly played with toy cap guns and water pistols. I even became quite captivated by painting and playing with toys soldiers. My first long movie at graduate film school was about a couple fantasizing what they would like to be, and for the man that included his being a soldier with a gun. My first professional job as a director was doing an episode of a series that featured a cowboy sheriff who didn't carry a gun. The series got cancelled and I was asked to direct the final episode where the hero – played by James Garner – got killed by a guy with a gun in the opening sequence. The rest of the episode was about his twin brother coming back with a gun for vengeance. The studio tried to resell the series with the now armed twin and this began my career as a Hollywood director. I created a multi-media show NO MORE MONDAYS in the seventies about education in the future that had a holographic person talk about the end of schools as we know them and the elimination of firearms. My first feature HEROES was about a returned Vietnam vet. Lots of guns. My second feature THE BIG FIX had Richard Dreyfuss playing an embittered former radical now gumshoe detective whose gun with his kid’s crayon in the barrel has to be replaced with a bullet and used in the final scene. I won an Emmy for directing an episode that opened with a character getting shot on the streets of Chicago. As I look back, I have shot a lot of people in the movies I have made. But it was back while studying filmmaking at NYU where my attitudes about gun violence and particularly gun violence in movies became a gnawing issue. Watching the brilliant films Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch, I was fascinated by how the filmmakers showed violence, but I also was disturbed by how many people got shot. Often bystanders. And I asked what happened to them.

SHOT is a response to that question. In a way it is the evolution of my filmmaking experiences. I wanted to confront in our gun- obsessed society what happens to the innocent bystanders who get shot.

We all have heard that there is a shocking amount of gun violence in our country. 20 times more than any other country! 20 times more! The proliferation of guns, the ease and availability to obtain them, whether legally or illegally, our cultural fascination with them, the media’s exploitation of them, the fear stirred up by the gun manufacturing industry as a way to sell them – all these factors play into why our country is off the map in gun violence compared to anywhere else in the world.
But how to tell this story? I may be the son of a preacher, but I didn’t want to preach. I wanted us to experience viscerally what it feels like to get shot, moment by moment, and what it does to your life from then on. I didn’t want to cut away from the shooting to something else. I wanted to stay with that “extra” – that “unimportant” character - and know what happens to them. I considered various ways, but it was seven years ago when I figured out how to do it. In part technically it was determined by the evolution of movie technologies. I wanted to tell a story in real time which requires light weight equipment for mobility and I wanted to tell what happened to the shooter as well as the person who got shot simultaneously using a sophisticated multi screen presentation and this too was more readily accomplished with the developing digital editing systems. The machinery was ready. Was I?

To be truthful to this story, over the years I met many people who had been shot, some who were in wheelchairs and paraplegic. I met EMT teams and doctors and nurses and police and heard their stories of how each deals with the problem and the people who suffer. I spent late nights at emergency rooms and witnessed GSW – gun shot wounded – people be rushed in and treated. I saw how many people are affected by what one bullet does. I talked with gun rights defenders and the gun control advocates. In my personal life, when threatened by unknown parties back in the 90’s, I had seen a detective who recommended I buy a shotgun – not a pistol – as most people shoot themselves with pistols he told me. But I could never bring that shotgun into my home despite the threat. It rotted away and before I started shooting this movie, I turned it into one of the gun givebacks that LA does and you can see the video of my emotional reaction in another part of this site when I handed it over.

As I was writing this, last night, someone who was mentally challenged was wandering the roof of my neighbor’s house. Had I a gun, I would have aimed it at him and maybe even shot him. Instead I questioned him and his answers revealed him as imbalanced. He even said call 911 and when the police arrived I was impressed that they didn’t first pull out their weapons and threaten the guy. Yes, he could have had a gun. And in our country, he could have had one more easily than anywhere else. That’s one of our problems in the way we deal with guns. And solutions are clear: background checks are obvious, everyone believes their value. Not having guns be illegally trafficked for profit is another obvious action. Being properly trained to use a gun is also a no brainer. We have to qualify to use a car. Shouldn’t we be qualified before using a gun? A big problem is stolen guns getting into the hands of irresponsible people. And now every gun made can be digitally inexpensively constructed so that only the owner can use it. These are clear practical solutions.

Of course, there are a variety of excuses the gun makers and their lobbyists put out there to justify our having millions of them. They say guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. Well, people with guns kill people. Let’s be real here.
Yet there is a deeper challenge for all of us. Our resistance to making restrictions for gun distribution is obscured by what experts on the constitution and our history call a misreading of the second amendment. In fact the first phrase in that amendment reads a “well regulated” militia and even when this was adopted by the early leaders of young America, they had restrictions on who and how guns were obtained, and this was when there were only flintlocks, not pistols even, and certainly no assault rifles. I am not talking about taking guns away, though wouldn’t it be wonderful it we lived in a gun free society. I am talking about responsibility with guns.

I said I didn’t want to preach. But then “blessed are the peacemakers” and if they are preachers – bless them, if they help us make peace with each other.

I have made SHOT as a movie that wants to help us realize what guns do - really do – and how we can transcend our obsession with them to realize our interconnection with each other. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride confronting this issue and ourselves.

When I was young, I heard about a neighbor’s boy accidentally killing his brother with a gun improperly stored in a closet. I wondered how that boy lived with that. This is one of the questions in our movie SHOT. How do we live with it – as the one who gets shot and the one who does the shooting. How do we live with this?

In my early college years, courageous heroes of that time where killed by guns: President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. I was stunned. And in our times so many nameless victims are added to the toll each day. I don’t want to get used to it.

I am grateful to all my partners in this endeavor – actors, crew, colleagues, supporters, friends – and I do hope this movie entertains and inspires.

And I reflect Bobby Kennedy’s observation: “The purpose of life is to contribute to some way to making things better.”

That is the purpose of SHOT.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT - JEREMY KAGAN

Jeremy KaganI would like this movie to save a life.

I realize that's quite a goal. It's hard enough just to provide people with 90 minutes of engaging entertainment. But as I am now dealing with the distribution of the movie after the many years it took to make it, I recognize even more intensely that this in fact is the goal, and what an excellent goal it is.

For this movie is about gun violence. And if this movie helps someone not to use the gun, or not have a gun used on them, then the movie really did something.

The issue of gun violence has disturbed me and so many other Americans for decades. And increasingly it has become an epidemic in our society. Too many people are shot and killed by guns every day in our country. I am a moviemaker so this is one way I am responding to this pressing problem. And from the research I have done with my Change Making Media Lab, I have learned that telling a captivating dramatic narrative is the most effective form of cinematic influence, so I chose to make a dramatic movie rather than a documentary.

In many spiritual teachings it's been said that what happens to one person happens to us all. I wanted to make a movie that would have the viewer experience what we would go through if we were shot. And I wanted us – the viewer – to be the “hero” in this movie experience. This is not about superheroes, this is about the average person – and what happens to us when something occurs because of gun violence.

This movie has been in the works since 2010 and in many ways it's been in the works since I started making movies and maybe even since I was born.

Like most post World War II young boys I grew up with gun slinging cowboys as my heroes and excitedly played with toy cap guns and water pistols. I even became quite captivated by painting and playing with toys soldiers. My first long movie at graduate film school was about a couple fantasizing what they would like to be, and for the man that included his being a soldier with a gun. My first professional job as a director was doing an episode of a series that featured a cowboy sheriff who didn't carry a gun. The series got cancelled and I was asked to direct the final episode where the hero – played by James Garner – got killed by a guy with a gun in the opening sequence. The rest of the episode was about his twin brother coming back with a gun for vengeance. The studio tried to resell the series with the now armed twin and this began my career as a Hollywood director. I created a multi-media show NO MORE MONDAYS in the seventies about education in the future that had a holographic person talk about the end of schools as we know them and the elimination of firearms. My first feature HEROES was about a returned Vietnam vet. Lots of guns. My second feature THE BIG FIX had Richard Dreyfuss playing an embittered former radical now gumshoe detective whose gun with his kid’s crayon in the barrel has to be replaced with a bullet and used in the final scene. I won an Emmy for directing an episode that opened with a character getting shot on the streets of Chicago. As I look back, I have shot a lot of people in the movies I have made. But it was back while studying filmmaking at NYU where my attitudes about gun violence and particularly gun violence in movies became a gnawing issue. Watching the brilliant films Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch, I was fascinated by how the filmmakers showed violence, but I also was disturbed by how many people got shot. Often bystanders. And I asked what happened to them.

SHOT is a response to that question. In a way it is the evolution of my filmmaking experiences. I wanted to confront in our gun- obsessed society what happens to the innocent bystanders who get shot.

We all have heard that there is a shocking amount of gun violence in our country. 20 times more than any other country! 20 times more! The proliferation of guns, the ease and availability to obtain them, whether legally or illegally, our cultural fascination with them, the media’s exploitation of them, the fear stirred up by the gun manufacturing industry as a way to sell them – all these factors play into why our country is off the map in gun violence compared to anywhere else in the world.
But how to tell this story? I may be the son of a preacher, but I didn’t want to preach. I wanted us to experience viscerally what it feels like to get shot, moment by moment, and what it does to your life from then on. I didn’t want to cut away from the shooting to something else. I wanted to stay with that “extra” – that “unimportant” character - and know what happens to them. I considered various ways, but it was seven years ago when I figured out how to do it. In part technically it was determined by the evolution of movie technologies. I wanted to tell a story in real time which requires light weight equipment for mobility and I wanted to tell what happened to the shooter as well as the person who got shot simultaneously using a sophisticated multi screen presentation and this too was more readily accomplished with the developing digital editing systems. The machinery was ready. Was I?

To be truthful to this story, over the years I met many people who had been shot, some who were in wheelchairs and paraplegic. I met EMT teams and doctors and nurses and police and heard their stories of how each deals with the problem and the people who suffer. I spent late nights at emergency rooms and witnessed GSW – gun shot wounded – people be rushed in and treated. I saw how many people are affected by what one bullet does. I talked with gun rights defenders and the gun control advocates. In my personal life, when threatened by unknown parties back in the 90’s, I had seen a detective who recommended I buy a shotgun – not a pistol – as most people shoot themselves with pistols he told me. But I could never bring that shotgun into my home despite the threat. It rotted away and before I started shooting this movie, I turned it into one of the gun givebacks that LA does and you can see the video of my emotional reaction in another part of this site when I handed it over.

As I was writing this, last night, someone who was mentally challenged was wandering the roof of my neighbor’s house. Had I a gun, I would have aimed it at him and maybe even shot him. Instead I questioned him and his answers revealed him as imbalanced. He even said call 911 and when the police arrived I was impressed that they didn’t first pull out their weapons and threaten the guy. Yes, he could have had a gun. And in our country, he could have had one more easily than anywhere else. That’s one of our problems in the way we deal with guns. And solutions are clear: background checks are obvious, everyone believes their value. Not having guns be illegally trafficked for profit is another obvious action. Being properly trained to use a gun is also a no brainer. We have to qualify to use a car. Shouldn’t we be qualified before using a gun? A big problem is stolen guns getting into the hands of irresponsible people. And now every gun made can be digitally inexpensively constructed so that only the owner can use it. These are clear practical solutions.

Of course, there are a variety of excuses the gun makers and their lobbyists put out there to justify our having millions of them. They say guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. Well, people with guns kill people. Let’s be real here.
Yet there is a deeper challenge for all of us. Our resistance to making restrictions for gun distribution is obscured by what experts on the constitution and our history call a misreading of the second amendment. In fact the first phrase in that amendment reads a “well regulated” militia and even when this was adopted by the early leaders of young America, they had restrictions on who and how guns were obtained, and this was when there were only flintlocks, not pistols even, and certainly no assault rifles. I am not talking about taking guns away, though wouldn’t it be wonderful it we lived in a gun free society. I am talking about responsibility with guns.

I said I didn’t want to preach. But then “blessed are the peacemakers” and if they are preachers – bless them, if they help us make peace with each other.

I have made SHOT as a movie that wants to help us realize what guns do - really do – and how we can transcend our obsession with them to realize our interconnection with each other. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride confronting this issue and ourselves.

When I was young, I heard about a neighbor’s boy accidentally killing his brother with a gun improperly stored in a closet. I wondered how that boy lived with that. This is one of the questions in our movie SHOT. How do we live with it – as the one who gets shot and the one who does the shooting. How do we live with this?

In my early college years, courageous heroes of that time where killed by guns: President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. I was stunned. And in our times so many nameless victims are added to the toll each day. I don’t want to get used to it.

I am grateful to all my partners in this endeavor – actors, crew, colleagues, supporters, friends – and I do hope this movie entertains and inspires.

And I reflect Bobby Kennedy’s observation: “The purpose of life is to contribute to some way to making things better.”

That is the purpose of SHOT.