op-ed

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Last year I got a ton of crap for having an opinion. Now it’s everyone else’s turn.

The Backstory

In April of last year I wrote what I knew would be a somewhat controversial article which ended up being more like a bomb drop on a very specific corner of the conservative new media.

After attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and witnessing what I believed was not a particularly well thought out film trailer, I took to Buzzfeed and offered my opinion on why I hoped that the makers took a different route before turning it into a feature film. The creators, Tea Party Patriots, pushed back on my opinion by noting that, in spite of what I’d been told, there was no intention to move from the short film into a longer film. The director of the piece took particular umbrage with what I’d written, going so far as to call in to a radio podcast I was being interviewed on to confront me over my review.

To make matters even more interesting, a friend of mine wrote multiple articles — on Breitbart.com, my old stomping grounds — attacking me for critiquing conservative efforts on BuzzFeed, which he deemed an unfriendly venue.

This is not to say I didn’t have support for what I’d written. I had loads of it, even from some at Breitbart. But amazingly, this has all come up numerous times in the year since I wrote it. My critique of conservatives has been mentioned on panels at conferences and used as an example of going outside the conservative echo chamber to talk about conservatives.

Let me preemptively concur with any reader who is preparing to speed to the bottom of this article to leave a snarky comment about how this is niche segment of conservative online media talking to themselves. I readily admit that the impact and controversy that came as a result of my article is not exactly at the forefront of the American debate on culture (which was primary point in the article) nor will it have a long term effect on conservative blogosphere.

But I can’t help but acknowledge one criticism that came from a friend: He said he knew most of the people upset with me were upset because I’d chosen to critique those who had done something I hadn’t. I put myself out there as a filmmaker and criticized the work of others, using my position as owner of a production company to underscore my critique.

However, and I admitted this in the article, I had not actually made a film myself. I offered condemnation of work without fully appreciating what goes into making that which I was condemning.

It’s a fair point and one that I am hoping to remedy today.

Premiered in Washington, DC on Thursday night and released to YouTube for a limited time on Friday, I have released a documentary funded & produced by my production company. The film is called Bankrupt and it is about the fall of Detroit.

As someone who experienced extreme financial crisis coming into the recession, the story of the auto bailouts which were ostensibly offered to “save Detroit,” I always had a particular distaste for what I’d seen take place. From my perspective, while I struggled with companies I owned and watched them descend into bankruptcy from 2008-2012, I simultaneously had to endure the auto companies waltzing into Washington, asking for billions of dollars to save themselves and the city that they helped build, and listen to George W. Bush tell the world that they were too big to fail.

As a small business owner, watching this unfold was upsetting and personal. It was the moment that I understood how damaging big business in bed with big government can be.

This, along with TARP, was the moment I became an activist and a blogger. That President Obama continued the practice begun under President Bush was as unsurprising as it was disappointing.

Then, in 2013, I watched as politicians called the bailouts a success while the city they were dispatched to “save” fell further into disrepair and finally, bankruptcy. At that moment, I knew that I had to do more than simply vent my feelings in a blog post or a short video.

And so myself and my crew, Director of Photography Michael Deppisch, Production Manager Sarah H. Smith and Co-Producer Thomas LaDuke, quietly set about making a film to document the state of the city. We talked to experts about how they got here and what’s next, to a City Councilman who told us his hopes for the Motor City, and also to people on the street to find out how they felt about it all and what they expect next.

I’m proud of what we created but I thought it was important, in light of the controversy last year, to put this out there for the world, for free, on YouTube, so that anyone and everyone can tell me what they think.

I can take criticism, of course I’ll love compliments. But either way, I hope you’ll watch.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

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