As some of you have noticed, over the past several months my social media content has moved from merely documenting the circumcision debate to offering my own thoughts, writing, and speaking on the issue. I’ve had some people ask if I plan to move into activism or some new related-project.
My film American Circumcision documented the actions and ideas of others, summarizing thirty years of activism and research in under a two-hour runtime. In doing so, it brought more attention to this issue than any single piece of media ever has before.
We won awards, trended on Netflix, and were a top new release in our category on Amazon. The film has been talked about across social media, and even shared by the star of a blockbuster superhero film and a Presidential candidate. Plus, I’ve done numerous interviews about the film, some on channels with over a million subscribers.
While this been enormously successful, I’ve reached the point where my platform is bigger than many of the individuals whose work I’ve documented. The amount of growth I can achieve by only playing the role of documentarian may have peaked. Now, it’s time to move on to another phase of my work on this issue.
I debated whether or not I should move from documenting to taking action for some time. I even debated whether or not I should continue with this issue at all. After all, when I began the film, I figured I’d tell this story, and then move on to other things.
While working on the film, I felt it was necessary not to put too much of myself out there, because I wanted audiences to focus on the people whose stories I was telling, rather than on me as a storyteller.
Over time, I’ve had to step more into the spotlight. Raising money for the film, required speaking publicly and putting my face out there. On tour, podcasts, and in interviews, I had to speak publicly as a representative of the film and issue.
This is a role I’ve come to enjoy. It’s gathered such attention that many people now see me as an advocate for the issue, rather than as just a filmmaker.
Originally, I planned to make my film and walk away. After all – I did my part. Filmmaking is what I love, and if I’ve given my unique superpower to this issue, what else can I offer?
However, working on the film, I developed other skills – social media, writing, public speaking, promotion, etc. I’ve also developed contacts – people with their own unique skills who’ve come to me because of the film and asked me how they could contribute to this issue.
Yet, the biggest thing that convinced me I need to continue were the men who came to me in pain because of this issue. I have had men email me, saying they were suicidal and wondering what they should do. One of my interview subjects even ended his own life after experiencing a grief around his circumcision.
I have done intense healing work around multiple issues in my life. I could not do the work I do now without a commitment to healing work and integration. Many of the people who have messaged me tell me they have no resources, and don’t even know where to start with their pain. Seeing the difference between where I am now, and where they are makes me think there is still more I can do around this issue.
In 2011, I sat on the steps of the San Francisco capitol building and wondered if I should continue making the film. A court had just thrown out the SF MGM bill, ballot initiative to ban infant circumcision in San Francisco, after a well-funded smear campaign lead by the ADL and their media allies had tried to brand anyone speaking out against circumcision as an anti-semite or Nazi. They had used the full force of the media to silence people who felt they had been sexually assaulted.
At the time, there were no powerful social media channels to fight back on. Twitter was a recent invention, and Instagram didn’t exist yet. The tools I would later use to finance, distribute, and market the film had not been created yet. I knew if I made this film, there was a chance I would be called some of the worst names society has, with no platform to clear my name.
In the film industry, such labels carry an even greater stigma. Even the moderately politically incorrect sometimes struggle to find work. The reputation the media might brand me with could cost me the ability to do what I love and have wanted to do since I was fourteen – make films. Did I really want to continue with this project?
However another part of me knew that if I quit I would be abandoning the part of me that felt harmed by this issue. I would be abandoning my own inner child. I would be telling the part of me that cared that his needs didn’t matter, and that I would let him down when pressure appeared.
I decided that it was more important to be true to myself and my own inner child than cave to cultural pressure. More important than the media. More important than the film industry. Even more important than being called a “nazi.” I knew who I was and was willing to fight for that regardless of whatever false labels anyone else hurled at me.
Now, I am in a different position. My film is done. The attacks I feared never came. By being true to myself, it worked out in the end. The only label the film ever really gave me was “award-winning.” I can even say I’m an “award-winning social justice activist” thanks to one film festival now. Not the reputation I was expecting, but I’ll take it.
This is another point where I could walk away. I have a good career. My film is successful, giving me a platform for further artistic ventures – which I intend to make. The crowdfunding success has also opened up the possibility for me to teach other artists and help them market their own work.
When I made this film, I wasn’t trying to be a leader of any kind. I just wanted to be true to myself. However, in doing so I’ve developed a following. Many of the people who care about this issue see me as a leader and want me to continue working on the issue.
At the same time, after working on this issue for over eight years, I have developed a perspective of my own – one that I have not heard anywhere else on either side of the issue. I got into film because I have a deep need to be seen and heard. I would be letting down this part of me that wants to be seen and have MY story and perspective heard, if I was to walk away after only documenting the story of others.
So I am entering a new phase on this issue – one in which I will be a public advocate for men and children. I will be publishing my own thoughts and feelings, and creating platforms and media through which people can be heard, find support, and get healing they need.
The film remains a fair hearing of many perspectives. I have made extended interviews available to all who want to see the raw footage of major interview subjects. While I may continue to document the issue, and even create projects which give a platform to perspectives that differ from my own, I plan to publish my own perspective and unique ideas.
Part of my method is deep listening. It is possible for me to share my own perspective without demonizing or demeaning anyone else for their own. I want you to know that if you don’t share my perspective on my issue that we can still communicate, converse, and dialogue.
My film process involved sitting across people many people I did not agree with and asking them questions. I want to understand, even if I don’t agree. My natural response to differences is curiosity. That has not changed. Now I feel it is even more important than ever to dialogue with those you disagree with. So know if you’re reading and you don’t like me or my work – the door is still open to communicate.
I share this with you, because there is going to be a change in my work. With the film, I strived for neutrality. With what follows, I’m going for a strong perspective. It may sound very different than what has come before.
I made the film because I was being true to myself. I still am. Thank you for all the support and I can’t wait to show you what comes next.
How You Can Help
If you’re interested in participating in the next phase of my work on this issue, let me know.
I’m looking for people with skills. Some skills that would be useful include:
- Web Design/Wordpress
- Graphic Design
- Editing (Writing)
- Editing (Video)
- Community Organizing
- Event Organizing
If you have another personal superpower not on this list, let me know.
I’m also willing to develop talent for certain projects. If you care about this issue and are willing to work or learn new skills, let me know.
Subscribe here to see what comes next.