Has a movie ever made you cry? If you are like most people, the answer is probably yes. Movies have a unique ability to bring people together and influence their choices in life. Multiple studies have shown that when someone sees a character on the screen that they relate to, they are more likely to make similar choices and actions like the character did. Movies have the power to influence people either positively or negatively.
Many movies and television shows produced in Hollywood today feature dark themes. Sometimes the storytelling is so well done and has such a powerful influence on the audience that tragic, unintended consequences occur. The Netflix series, Thirteen Reasons Why (2017) explored the motivation and aftermath of a teenager’s suicide. A recent study shows that when the series premiered, teenage suicide spiked the following months in the United States, indicating that vulnerable young people may have been tragically inspired by the story.
But, there are also films that bring a positive impact to their audiences. One academic study discovered that films with an altruistic message tend to inspire the audience to go out and do good in the world. Movies like Disney Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) were specifically created so that psychiatrists can use the films to help their clients. Prof. Dr. Samuel Pfeifer, M.D. has seen the power of films in his psychiatry practice in Switzerland. He has found that films give his patients an avenue to open up about their experiences to others and seek help.
“A movie can help people identify with the people that they are watching in the movie. And that can help to find parallels to their own experience. So, I think it’s a powerful tool to reach people especially if they do not yet have words to express their grief or their doubt or their lack of self-worth, their despair,” explained Pfeifer.
Movies can explore difficult topics that society tends to avoid. When these topics are exposed for what they are, people can be more comfortable discussing them openly. “The movie industry is so rich in topics, but very often it’s just on the surface. But, we also need movies that address the deeper questions of humanity, and especially the deeper pain, hidden pain, that other people may not see. If they watch a movie, or if the relatives closest to them are watching such a movie, they might better understand the struggles of this person and their depression,“ said Pfeifer.
Filmmakers are uniquely positioned to use their craft to make a positive impact on their audiences. As experts are consulted, films can be designed to become effective tools to help those in need. At Lava Lamp Films, we choose not only to tell compelling stories, but to tell stories that will bring about positive change in the world.
Written by Sarah Bubke