It began with a short film, starring James Cromwell as an admissions clerk for the afterlife, with a wry sense of humor and an important message about humanity.
John Viscount (writer) and Harry Kakatsakis (director) created a film that caught the attention of diplomats and peace activists — among them, the philanthropic actress Sharon Stone. In the midst of screening Admissions, complete with a discussion guide for school audiences, writer John Viscount has written yet another film with a less abstract perspective on the topic of conflict resolution. The Principle is about cyber-bullying, and Stone is already on board to star in this movie tackling one of today’s easiest (and most cowardly) destructive anti-social tactics.
An August 6th press release quotes Stone as saying, “The Principle is a modern-day parable about cyber-bullying, a timely topic that is close to my heart. It is impossible today to be a parent and a mother, and not be frightened about the devastating problem of online bullying.”
According to Washington’s Top News, Stone is playing the principal of children dealing with the issue of bullying.
“Sharon Stone was the key,” said Viscount, to garnering the attention and support for both Admissions and this upcoming film. “Having someone of her stature who has done so much great work around the world addressing the biggest challenges facing humanity was a special gift. Additionally, the subject of our upcoming modern parable is the rapidly growing problem of online bullying and this is certainly an issue that touches all people.”
He’s right. Childline, a charity set up for parents to contact professionals and advocates regarding their child-rearing concerns, reported to Amy Sedghi of The Guardian last year that 87 percent of the calls they receive are about cyberbullying. However, the mission of the filmmakers and humanitarians (with much crossover in those roles, I might add) extends farther than just the topic of individual films. Getting people with influence and financial means to care about this film required much collaboration.
“The clincher,” Viscount explained, “was the magical work Shahin Mafi and the Azar Foundation for Children of the World, Jan Du Plain, Sister Jenna and Portia Davidson did reaching out to their VIP contacts in the Washington DC area.”
Jan Du Plain, the press contact for the Admissions screening, called the event “a grand evening,” with “approximately 100 guests including media, diplomats, socialites and peace activists” in attendance. She has spent most of her life in the business of connecting people and causes for the greater good, and it shows. Reactions to Viscount’s beautifully intellectual yet emotionally resonant Admissions has already received 26 awards, and Viscount was pleased to see an equally strong response from the audience at Mafi’s hosted screening.
“During the screening, you could hear strong reactions from the audience as the drama unfolded and the talented actors delivered their profound lines.”
There are many lines which Viscount could be referring to, as the film doesn’t quite hit you over the head with its message of peace, but certainly holds a mirror up to examine your own sense of justice, as well as the natural need people feel for retribution. Perhaps that’s the power of these collaborations, as each person contributes their own strengths to produce a final product with impact. In the case of funding a “special interests” film, having such skill diversity is vital, as Viscount admitted that there are challenges.
“When you are making a transformational short film with the intention of healing rather than making money, the biggest challenge is to find like-minded people who are willing to fund it.”
Fortunately, Viscount found just the right group of like-minded people. After an initial private screening at Shanin Mafi’s house last year while also promoting his book and PeaceNow movement, Mafi — the Azar Foundation of the World founder (whose hosting practices are described by Sharon Stone as being those of a “16 star hotel”), approached Viscount with an offer to promote his mission of peace.
“Mrs. Mafi told me she wanted to support my peace work and my next film about online bullying. Since her foundation’s mission is to look after the well-being of children worldwide, the purpose of The Principle aligned perfectly with her humanitarian work.”
What exactly attracted Mafi to his work? Well, between writing scripts, music and books, Viscount also works pro-bono with Scotty Bruer as the Co-Founder of PeaceNow.com, a movement centered on securing government Peace Departments on a global scale. Sharon Stone joined the Board as well, and the movement has gathered signatures from nearly two hundred countries so far, with the goal of gathering one billion signatures.
Mafi has long supported these same causes through the Azar Foundation for the Children of the World, which allows youth to help youth through participating in various programs in which they can feed the homeless, get specialized education and training, and learn more about how to become leaders in their communities.
One might call this unlikely group of activists Peace Crusaders, but the terminology would seem ironically militant. This shared focus on cultivating global peace through discussion and tangible policy revolution is the reason that a simple movie screening attracted activists and diplomats from places like Trinidad, the Czech Republic, Greece and Botswana. The only conflict inherent in a mission for peace is whether those with time, money and resources to make a difference will press on or stall progress.
As it currently stands, while you might not be in the position to pay $1,000 for a private screening or fund the next brilliant film, anyone can be a PeaceNow volunteer by going to their website (PeaceNow.com), and you can order Viscount’s book Mind What Matters: A Pep Talk for Humanity on Amazon for less than what you would pay if you bought a Starbucks beverage every day this week. Added up, that’s one small step for man, and a latte for mankind.
(Photos by: Neshan H. Naltchayan, Patricia McDougall and Travis Holler,
except the feature photo which is a screen shot from the movie trailer)
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.