Stephen McEveety highlights value of storytelling to move an audience
Film producer Stephen McEveety of Mpower Pictures visited Notre Dame to speak at the Center for Ethics and Culture’s Fall Conference on November 12.
After working for Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, where McEveety executively produced films such as Anna Karenina and Braveheart, he went on to launch Mpower Pictures with David Segal, John Shepherd and Todd Burns. Many of Mpower’s films have won awards at multiple film festivals: Bella (Toronto Film Festival), Snowmen (Tribeca Film Festival), and The Stoning of Soraya (Toronto Film Festival).
Irish journalist John Waters led the relaxed conversation with McEveety, which began with a reel of films the producer has worked on, including Braveheart, Anna Karenina, Bella, The Stoning of Soraya, and The Passion of the Christ. Following the presentation of his impressive oeuvre, McEveety explained to the audience that for him, entertainment goes beyond amusement and distraction; it is meant to evoke emotion in the observer, such as sadness, happiness, or shock. A truly good film simply tells a good story.
Waters asked McEveety if he is ever categorized as a “Catholic” filmmaker and, if so, how that affects his work. The producer made it clear that although he is Catholic, he is first and foremost a film producer at work because that is his job, working to the best of the his abilities and striving to learn and grow. Being Catholic is something internal that cannot be turned off or on; it is a holistic reality. He does not need to “think Catholic” at work in order to produce quality, entertaining films; he simply needs to do what he does best: produce films.
McEveety went on to explain that in order to make films that convey positive messages and that are also entertaining, a filmmaker needs to “manipulate” members of his audience to a certain extent in order to move them. He continued that a film cannot change a person’s mind or even affect them deeply if it preaches at them. A truly good film can say everything without saying a lot. Visual, musical, and character choices made within a film can profoundly affect an audience member.
When audience members had the opportunity to ask McEveety questions, many young people were eager to enter into dialogue with the producer. One college student asked how the millennial generation could go about making good films with moral messages while avoiding a recreation of the many poorly constructed and received Christian-branded films currently on the market. McEveety responded that although there is a niche for those types of films, there is an even wider audience for films that tell a good story: “Ultimate success is telling a story that changes a culture or a person … We all have an appetite for a story, but it is hard to create one.”
Thinking about which films have actually positively affected your life as a viewer, McEveety demonstrated, you may notice a pattern. No matter what genre or length of the film, it somehow struck a chord within you, told you a story in a way you have never thought of viewing it, and remained in you so long that its underlying values have begun to intermix themselves with your everyday thoughts. A moving film gently shows you a direction that you could move in and could develop in.
McEveety ended the engaging conversation by briefly discussing his newest film, Man Down, which will be released December 2016. Starring Shia LaBeouf and Kate Mara, Man Down explores the reality of PTSD in American soldiers returning from war.
Crystal Avila is a senior studying film and television. She highly recommends that you see Man Down. If you need a movie suggestion or want to help her edit her documentary, email her at email@example.com.