Pardon the nepotism, but we just wanted to say that we couldn’t be more proud of Kristian Almgren and Aaron Fisher-Cohen, the two young men behind DAMN!, the new documentary about Jimmy “The Rent Is Too Damn High” McMillan. Kristian served well here as an ad rep up until about a year or so ago, and Aaron dutifully interned here, making video clips, a few years ago. Since then, the pair of UArts grads have formed Fantastic Relationship Filmmaking, and DAMN! is their first feature-length production. It’s already been touted on The Daily Beast and today on Mashable, and it’s slated to open in NYC shortly. We’re currently working with the duo on bringing the film to Philly, and we’ll be sure to let you know about that when it happens. In the meantime, here’s the trailer, and after the jump, Aaron’s official statement on DAMN!.
Official Statement from DAMN! Director Aaron Fisher-Cohen:
“Jimmy’s story is one which is age-old. A man, with apparently good intentions, makes his way into the public eye only to be blinded by the spotlight. These stories have always had a clear and unambiguous moral that attempts to warn the overly ambitious of the downfalls of celebrity and success. Looking deeper, Jimmy’s story is more complex. From the beginning, it was unclear whether Jimmy had any real desire to improve New York. Sometimes it seemed like he just wanted attention, and attention, to me, has become the most important currency of the world to us citizens of the web. Ideas do not matter anymore. In a world where every news organization, blogger, or random stranger on Twitter or YouTube has a voice, their combined sound becomes nearly deafening. The only types of ‘stories’ that now sustain our attention are those which yowl at the top of their lungs – those whose humor, absurdity, vicious- ness or sentimentality is immediately apparent. Even before the widespread use of the Internet, notable individuals had begun to question the affect of media on these cognitive processes. Television was seen by Neil Postman as a medium that mutates political discourse and issues into superficial images and entertainment. In the political realm, this transformation is dangerous. Those who take the time to express an original idea are immediately tuned out, and political discourse becomes filled with those politicians who are able to spew sound bites like machines. Overwhelmed by this monotony, citizens of mediated nations are left to attempt, on their own, to distinguish between the bloodsuckers and those with honest intentions.
Jimmy, with his five word mantra, his eccentricity and his political ‘outrage’, was something of a perfect viral storm, and because of this, we were able to capture precisely which devices the media uses to milk these cash-cows (and now view-cows). Perhaps most interestingly is how this man, who had never experienced celebrity before, responded to the attention. Documenting this journey, the film is able to raise many difficult, yet critical, questions. Are viral hits victimized by the media or are they complicit? Have we all been transformed into attention-mongers, willing to sacrifice dignity for, now quantifiable, views on a screen? What drives some individuals to seek this sort of attention, and what compels society to grant it to certain people over others? How does social media drive these sensational events and people? How is our increasingly diminishing attention span affecting the state of politics?
This is the first documentary that I am aware of that captures a subject as their viral fame unfolds. It exposes how unlimited access to media, and the ability of most individuals to produce their own, has changed both us and the media-conglomerates. While it does not offer any solutions, I believe it highlights how critical it is that these questions be taken seriously. Sadly, we understand that because of this ambiguity, it will likely never receive the same success on YouTube as its main subject.” – Aaron Fisher-Cohen