“Why in the world would you do that?” It’s a question I’m asked often when my friends learn that I’m jumping into the movie business with my first feature film, I’m Not Ashamed. I’ve had a great life. I’ve done very well in the music business, having had several #1’s as a record producer and several #1 publishing companies partnering with Curb Nashville, and truth be told, I’ve probably earned the right to sit back, watch ESPN and ride horses for the rest of my life. But here’s the thing: I’m hoping to produce some movies that will inspire young people to have love and compassion for one another, not hatred and anger as so many films I’ve seen have done.
I may be a newbie to filmmaking, but as a veteran of the country music scene I know a thing or two about telling a story and I know that the stories we choose to tell our children will largely determine their character, and eventually, the outcome of our civilization. I am in the movie business because I want our children to hear the true stories of America — the kind that need to be passed on if we want to build a strong country. Sadly, that hasn’t always been the case with Hollywood.
You can imagine my surprise when I set out to tell the story of Rachel Joy Scott, the sweet teenage girl who was killed at Columbine High School in 1999 and learned this fascinating fact when we researched videos and journals made by the two young men who killed thirteen precious lives: the killers bragged about their desire to “go NBK,” and even referred to the tragic day as “the holy morning of NBK.”
NBK? That would be Natural Born Killers, an Oliver Stone-directed movie about two killers who go on a murderous rampage. It’s supposed to be a satire, but if that was the case, I don’t think Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris got the point. To them, it wasn’t satire, but a roadmap.
Naturally, I found myself watching the film to better understand the killers’ mindset, and the lack of responsibility on the part of the people who made this movie is appalling. Stone has been quoted as saying: “In its own way, Natural Born Killers is ultimately a very optimistic film about the future. It’s about freedom, and the ability of every human being to get it.”
John Grisham has another take, however. In a 1996 essay in the Oxford American, titled “Unnatural Killers,” he wrote: “Oliver Stone is saying that murder is cool and fun, murder is a high, a rush, murder is a drug to be used at will. The more you kill, the cooler you are.”
Grisham acknowledges that Stone intended the movie to be a satire, but it cannot be, he argues, because “a satire is supposed to make fun of whatever it is attacking.”
“Mr. Stone, your attempt to make fun of the press obsession, celebrity murderers is not funny, especially to families where the results ended in murder. No matter how good your art when you are painting with blood, it’s still just blood. Hopefully Hollywood will someday come to the realization that Glorified Violent Movies is a cause in Glorified Violent Crimes.”
I’m thankful for men with common sense like Grisham, but I’m afraid they are vastly outnumbered by the likes of Stone and others who participated in the film, whom millions of Americans like me believe bear some responsibility for what happened by the careless way in which they made Natural Born Killers and other films.
In the meantime, the rest of us have the short time we’ve been given to do good in the midst of evil. And in my case, it has been my task to make a movie about a genuine American hero — not an astronaut who stretched boundaries or a president who did great things, but a young girl who courageously stared evil in the face and refused to let her killer take from her the thing she cherished most: her faith in God.
Digital distribution will ensure that the evil in movies like Natural Born Killers will continue forever. None of us can change that. But we can fight awful movies with good ones. And by making I’m Not Ashamed, I hope that young people will be inspired not to say “let’s go NBK” but rather, “let’s go INA,” as they look for ways they can show love and compassion for others, as Rachel Scott did during her short 17 years on this earth.
Chuck Howard is the producer of I’m Not Ashamed, in theaters nationwide on October 21st.