Guerrilla filmmaker Robert Greenwald Talks About “Sick for Profit” Campaign
Robert Greenwald is a successful director in television and film with many nominations and awards under his belt. Around five years ago, he turned to political documentaries with his exposé on Fox News called Outfoxed; Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. That was only the beginning. Since Outfoxed, Greenwald and his team have made hundreds of short videos, as well as full-length films, that have reached millions of viewers worldwide.
Welcome to OpEdNews, Robert. In recent years, you’ve channeled your success in television and film into filmmaking with a more pointed political agenda. What was the impetus for this change?
I fell in love with documentaries as an art form and as an avenue for creating change. It became a natural path for me to focus on creating documentaries with a more political agenda, so I could have an active hand in effecting this change and helping to inform people.
How did you come up with the revolutionary idea of combining short films and the internet?
The internet is a great tool for democracy, with people spreading information and ideas to their peers quickly and easily. Putting short films on the internet is relatively inexpensive and viewers can watch it for free. Also, people have short attention spans when it comes to the internet, so making short films that were concise, engaging, and accessible seemed like a likely next step for us.
How much has Brave New Films grown since its inception?
It’s grown by leaps and bounds. We started with a small company of three people, and we’ve since developed into a fully staffed, mid-sized non-profit.
Where do you get your funding? What organizations do you work with to promote your progressive agenda? (Would you agree that it’s a progressive agenda?)
A good question! We get a lot of our funding through our “Producers Program.” We have a very large list of folks who sign up on an email list to receive updates, and they help fund a lot of our projects through small direct online contributions. We also work with different organizations, depending on the specific issue we’re tackling. Additionally, we do a lot of work with foundations. Funding is always a challenge and we spend lots of time working to fund raise for our work.
You’ve done hundreds of short films on a range of topics. Many of them fall within a few categories: corporate greed in all its guises, inappropriate political candidates, incumbents, or appointees, victims of public policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now health care legislation. How do you decide on a subject?
We draw from many sources. First, our great staff, which is very much committed to issues of social justice, and contribute an endless amount of great ideas for important subjects to cover. Second, we draw from the issues currently being debated by the public and in Congress, issues that affect millions of people (like our current discussion on health care reform).
Finally, we are always focused on what is not being discussed, what is not being exposed. In regards to healthcare, we wanted to show the CEO profits specifically because it was not being talked about. This was the same goal we had with Fox News when we started, as well as McCain’s mansions.
In Sick for Profit, your latest initiative, you have teamed up withThe American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and Herndon Alliance. Who are they and what do they want?
The AAFP is the national association of family doctors, and one of the largest national medical organizations, with more than 94,000 members. The Herndon Alliance is a nationwide non-partisan coalition of over 200 minority, faith, labor, advocacy, business, and health care provider organizations. Both organizations are dedicated to informing the public about and providing high quality, cost-effective health care. We’ve all come together with Heal Health Care Now to show the support these doctors and medical professionals have for prompt, meaningful health care reform.
Your email missive for this campaign was entitled “450,000 doctors can’t be wrong.” What exactly do all these doctors agree on?
These doctors are all calling for comprehensive quality health care reform. These are the doctors whose job it is to treat and care for the people in this nation, and they all agree that the current system of health care is broken. They all agree that reform is necessary in order to continue offering quality health care to their patients.
Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals have been getting arrested on Capitol Hill and elsewhere for raising the question of single-payer. [See my June interview with Dr. Margaret Flowers.*] And yet, single-payer is still not even on the table in Congress. Candidate Obama campaigned repeatedly for it but once he was in the White House jettisoned single payer as unfeasible. What happened to his initial enthusiasm? Did he sell out?
I don’t think it is productive to attack motive. We are focused on working very hard to get a strong public option passed.
The president does not seem to be very pro-active, although he claims that health care is his first priority. Do you find his attitude and strategy surprising?
We saw former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton be completely pro-active, drawing up their own bill, and trying to push it through Congress, but those efforts failed. Obama is trying a different approach, working with Congress and letting them work out the legislation, and hoping that combined effort will get quality health care reform passed. Our job as activists is not to sit back and kvetch and second guess; it is to organize, organize, and organize to build he pressure for change. The pressure for change always comes from below.
Some reports indicate that the public option, a poor stand-in for single payer which may or may not be better than nothing,has been weakened or even deleted from pending legislation. Our elected officials clearly are listening more to the health industry lobbyists than to the voters in their districts. So, what can Americans do about it?
The good thing right now is that there are still no final bills on either side of Congress, so there is still plenty of time to make sure we don’t end up with a watered-down public option, or worse yet, no public option at all. What people can do is call their representatives right now and tell them they demand a public option, and inform their friends and family to do the same. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose! The more we focus on getting people involved, the more effective we will be.
Do you feel that passing something, even with a watered down public option or none at all, is truly better than nothing?
No, I don’t agree with that at all. There are special times for particular issues, and this is the perfect time for health care reform. The time for change and action is now, and it is our responsibility as American citizens to demand that we have comprehensive health care reform. We cannot afford to settle for watered-down plans or lack of a public option. We need comprehensive health care reform now!
Do you have any links for our readers?
I’d like to invite them to check out our health care reform campaign, Sick for Profit at http://sickforprofit.com, where they can see the drastic contrast between the rich lifestyles of Health Insurance CEOs, and how their companies and this flawed system are failing to care for their policyholders. We also invite them to share their own stories about being mistreated by their health care providers.
Thank you very much for talking with us, Robert. Good luck with your campaign for real heath care reform!
I asked how Brave New Films measures the impact of Sick for Profit. Communications Director, Martha de Hoyos provided this snapshot:
YouTube one-week total views: 108,162 views and 1,500 comments.
Article about Sick for Profit video made front page of Huffington Post with over 1350 comments.
Monday, August 10th (single day): 15,419 visitors to the Sick for Profit site.
On Friday, August 10th, Sick for Profit #1 top favorite award, #5 most viewed on YouTube.
Robert has made three MSNBC appearances. Overall, Sick for Profit has been highly successful by most standards.
I think that’s an understatement, Martha. It’s a testament to the power of guerrilla filmmaking as well as the massive public interest in meaningful health care reform.