The 2023 Oscar buzz was recently set alight by Daniel Scheinert, the director of the upcoming film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” who defended the decision to shoot the film in Tennessee following controversy surrounding the state’s abortion ban. In a fiery speech, Scheinert argued that the film industry has a duty to support local economies and create jobs while also using their productions to make a political statement.
Scheinert, best known as one half of the directing duo “Daniels” who co-directed critically acclaimed films “Swiss Army Man” and “The Death of Dick Long,” has been a vocal advocate for filming in Tennessee despite the state’s contentious politics. In March 2021, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed a bill that effectively banned abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected, a law that has been condemned by pro-choice activists and sparked boycotts by filmmakers.
In response to the controversy, Scheinert took the stage at a Film Independent event in Los Angeles to defend his decision to film “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in Tennessee, arguing that filmmakers have a responsibility to use their productions to make a political statement. “I would argue that when you make a movie, or any piece of creative work, it is inherently political,” Scheinert said. “We’re making a statement by putting a camera in front of something and saying ‘this is important.'”
Scheinert went on to argue that while it’s important to speak out against oppressive laws, boycotting a state like Tennessee would ultimately hurt the people who live there the most. “If we don’t go there, who does?” Scheinert asked. “Who’s going to go make a movie in a small town in Tennessee and bring work and money to the local community?”
Scheinert’s argument echoes the growing debate within the film industry over how to balance artistic expression with political activism. Some have criticized Hollywood for co-opting political causes for their own gain, while others argue that filmmakers have a responsibility to use their work to effect social change.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a science-fiction action-comedy that follows Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese-American woman who is sucked into a wormhole and must navigate multiple parallel universes to save herself and her family. The film, which is produced by the Russo brothers and has a reported budget of $70 million, is set to be one of the biggest productions to ever film in Tennessee.
Scheinert’s speech at the Film Independent event has since gone viral, with many praising the director for his impassioned defense of the decision to film in Tennessee. However, the backlash against the state’s abortion law has also continued, with some calling for a boycott of the film.
The controversy highlights the difficult balancing act that filmmakers must navigate when it comes to politics and art. While Scheinert is right that the film industry has a responsibility to support local economies and create jobs, it is also true that filmmakers have the power to make a statement with their work and support causes that they believe in. The decision to film in Tennessee is not a simple one, and it remains to be seen whether audiences will ultimately support Scheinert’s message or reject it.
Regardless, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is set to be one of the most highly anticipated films of 2023, and Scheinert’s passionate defense of his decision to film in Tennessee will likely continue to be a major point of discussion in the lead up to the film’s release. Whether the film will ultimately succeed or fail at the box office remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the debate over the role of politics in Hollywood is far from over.