Awards Circuit reached out to several of this year’s awards contenders and asked them to write the answer to the question, “What did 2017 films mean to me?”  Through the lens of actors, writers, filmmakers, and craftsmen and women, we will hear directly from the talent themselves and have them reflect on a year that has proven both successful and challenging.  

What 2017 Films Meant to Me
by Jason Hall (writer/director for “Thank You for Your Service“)

The first movie I saw in a theatre was “Gandhi.” I was ten years old and it was a crowded theatre in San Bernardino. I knew nothing about the world but what I experienced in that day remains one of my earliest, most impactful memories. I remember the shame of seeing him beaten and the shocked gasps when he was shot. I came to understand the journey of this man who I shared very little with and his story deepened me in ways that I still wish to hold onto. I saw other movies in that theater, some good, some not so good—but that was the first time a movie changed my life. It connected me. When I’m at my worst, film has given me reason and purpose to being alive, and a place to go. And at their best, films connect me to the world and to ideas and feelings and I might never reach out for on my own.

There is something that happens when the lights go down and you watch a film with a room full of strangers. You experience not only the film but the experience of others in the room next to you. A collective conscious is shared by moviegoers, and that experience can be profound. I had the opportunity to write and direct a film this year called “Thank You For Your Service”. The film seeks to bring new understanding to how challenging it is for soldiers to return home—and in directing a film you end up watching it over and over again. I watched it no less than 100 times. Half of those were during the edit, but half of those were after we locked picture. We screened the film for soldiers and politicians and civilians—we screened it and screened it and screened it—and in doing so you realize the power of an audience. The experience of the film is different every time because the people filling the seats are different every time—our perception of what we are seeing and that shared experience changes the film—and it is my belief that it changes us.

I have since watched “Gandhi” at home. It was the best movie of 1983 and if it were released today it would be the best of this year too. But watching it at home wasn’t the same. The connection I felt to Mahatma Gandhi in that theatre of my childhood wasn’t just a connection to his story—it was a connection to the people beside me. A good movie connects us to our humanity, by connecting us to others.

Moviegoing is a communal experience that at its core is meant to be shared. So as we go out into 2018 and celebrate the best of 2017, let’s share it theater.

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