The executive producer of Brave New Films sits down with Buzzsaw
Jim Miller is the executive producer of Brave New Films, a new media company that
produces feature-length documentaries and investigative videos.
TB: What goes into deciding the issues you’re going to cover at Brave New Films?
JM: There are 27 of us, and the subjects that we cover require an enormous amount of passion, so we always talk with staff. We have weekly staff meetings and talk about what’s going on with current events, what things we may be able to talk about or add to the conversation with our videos. Because we don’t just do full length, we also do short videos around a number of videos and it’s almost always staff-driven.
TB: What do you think has changed in our culture so that now we’re willing to chase whistleblowers down and punish them?
JM: Good question. It’s funny because we always see those signs: “If you see something, say something.” And the government wants people to protect other people, yet when it comes to the government and somebody pointing out something they’ve done a little bit incorrectly, the government takes great offense. The War on Whistleblowers film shows an example of four real heroes who sacrifice literally everything to point out some wrongdoings. And they were punished for it. Why? You know, the self-preservation of certain people goes beyond, I guess, their moral obligations.
TB: And would you say the American public is misinformed on drone usage? What should we know that perhaps we don’t?
JM: I think that it goes beyond misinformation; I think that they’re not just informed at all. I think it’s a subject that hasn’t been, until the last couple of weeks with the Amnesty and UN and Human Rights Watch reports, and now our film, one that people really thought about. Certainly the US government hasn’t been broadcasting the fact that so many innocent people have been killed by these weaponized drones flying 24/7 over another country. So, I think that with the film and these reports people are starting to get informed about the usage outside of the United States of these drones and how harmful they are, how they’re creating more enemies.
TB: Why is it problematic that we view whistleblowers as criminals in your view?
JM: I think it’s un-American to view whistleblowers, people who are bringing grievances to the attention of their superiors, and then beyond when the superiors don’t listen, as criminals. I think it’s un-American. I think if there’s something that is unlawful that is hurting people or costing taxpayer dollars, it should be brought to light.
TB: Do you envision that there’s something the general public can do about it, more specifically students?
JM: Yes, and that’s a big part of what we do. We specifically don’t produce documentaries so that they can go into movie theatres and people can leave after an hour or two with a feeling of helplessness or just being depressed about the issue. What we do is encourage people to have screenings with friends and family in their homes or to watch online and download our actions guides. So whenever we do a project, whether it’s a long-form documentary or a short, we always add “action asks.” If you go to [Americasdronewars.com], you can download the action guide and see what other organizations have said people should try to do.
TB: What’s next for you and for Brave New Films?
JM: Usually we have a year-end retreat and we talk about the year that passed and what people would like to see going forward. So that’s going to be happening in a couple of weeks. In addition to that, we always have ongoing projects. One touches on Latino issues and is right now dealing very specifically with immigration before and health and safety issues affecting low-wage workers. The other one deals with mass incarceration, and the issue they’re dealing with right now is private prisons, which really is a catastrophe across the country.
Timothy Bidon is a senior journalism major who loves stealing the Q&As. Email him at tbidon1[at]ithaca.edu.