Nuanced films don’t sell in theatres, a colleague told me a week ago. He was explaining why a theatre in Toronto has declined to screen my upcoming film, The Rise of Jordan Peterson. This wasn’t the only hurdle we faced trying to get this film, which traces the tumultuous period that placed Peterson on the world stage as a beloved and reviled public intellectual, into theatres. We faced quite a few, from internal debates to ethical concerns about contributing to the cult of personality around Peterson to the statement that continues echoing in my mind: nuanced film don’t sell.
My experience broadcasting a nuanced TV film about Jordan Peterson on the Canadian Broadcasting Channel last year didn’t support my colleague’s claim. The film was popular and generally well received (once people watched it, that is—social media reactions beforehand were another story). After watching the film, audiences told me that it was refreshingly balanced and that it didn’t tell them what to think. And they liked that! But is it true that nuanced films don’t sell in theatres? Do people only want to buy tickets to see films about their heroes or stories that make them feel good? And, if this is true, is this the result of media conditioning, or has the media taken this approach in response to our wants, which are rooted in our human nature?
I’m not a huge fan of the descriptor balanced for my film. If the film is balanced, it’s not because I was trying to be. I was trying to be honest. If the film is balanced, it’s simply a consequence of the fact that I listened to different perspectives and discovered valid points that were worth reflecting back to audiences. The world is complicated, and this film is complicated too. It doesn’t wrap things up into a neat story with a feel-good ending because that’s not what I witnessed and what my experience was like making it. So I don’t think balanced is the most accurate word to describe it, even though I know what people mean when they say that. I think the film is honest. And nuanced.
But nuanced films don’t sell.
Yesterday, the news came out that a week-long theatrical run of my 90-minute feature about Peterson had been cancelled by Carlton cinema in Toronto because one or more of the staff had complained—even though the complainants most likely hadn’t seen it. This placed the cinema in a tough position and they decided to cancel the run. It was disappointing, and they were very apologetic about it.
I consulted with trusted colleagues about whether or not to name the cinema when journalists asked us about the barriers we faced theatrically. We decided to opt for cinema-on-demand platforms to circumvent these troubles. This means that fans can request screenings in their cities and, if enough tickets sell at a screening (40% of the box office), the screening will go ahead. Peterson, of course, has a huge existing fan base, but this film wasn’t just made for Peterson fans. It’s nuanced—but, alas, nuanced films don’t sell.
I decided to name Carlton cinema because I didn’t think it was right to let this slide. Cancel culture is a very tired narrative nowadays, but it’s disappointing to work so hard on a film and to have it cancelled in this way—not because of the content or the treatment, but because of the subject matter.
Some people have been calling Carlton to express their discontent. And, while I appreciate this support and think it’s fair for people to voice their opinions respectfully, I’m apprehensive that many people’s reactions to this story may quickly devolve into outrage, which is rotting our culture. Carlton’s decision, while it wasn’t brave, was ultimately a business decision and, as a business owner, I can understand how complicated such decisions can be.
I’ve spent the last three and a half years embedded in the toxicity of this culture war, as a consequence of making this film. And I’ve learned that it’s very easy to fall into the temptation of fighting for a cause—to be pulled in by the seduction of anger, the tug of outrage, and the comfort of belonging to a tribe.
It doesn’t feel as good (at first) to take a step back and think about the big picture. But it’s better for everyone’s sanity in the long run.
If you want to support this film, then I ask you to share the trailer on social media. Start a conversation about it. Request a screening in your city. Help the screenings scattered across Canada on October 6 tip (i.e. sell 40% of their box offices). Let your friends around the world know that they can request or host screenings in the US, Australia, Ireland, the UK and Germany, with the option of including a panel discussion and creating an event. Nuanced films are major conversation starters and this film falls into that category.
But nuanced films don’t sell.
Or do they? I can’t help but take this as a personal challenge.
Do you only want to see films that celebrate your heroes? Or do you want to see films that also challenge you? That make you think? That genuinely tell different sides of a story—that reflect reality without ideological tunnel vision?
Maybe nuanced films can sell.
Peterson is a quack and a charlatan. Yes, Jordan Peterson doesn’t advocate violence– directly; he just IMPLIES it, by wearing the “emperor’s robe” of psychology, and lets stigma and mob rule do the rest, as those who oppose him are dismissed as mentally ill, while his followers feel superior as long as they agree with him. . Peterson thus uses his license and credentials to engaging in the Political abuse of psychiatry, via dictating “healthy vs. unhealthy” thinking, speech and behavior; thus misusing of psychiatry for political purposes of obstructing the human rights of individuals and/or groups in society. Violence then follows, as his targets meet the fate of all those diagnosed with mental illness by any quack with a medical license, being ignored and dismissed without question, and even institutionalized on a whim. Then it’s not “violence,” it’s just “protecting mentally ill people from being a danger to themselves… Read more »
Just booked 15 tics for Vanccouver screening, which is now confirmed to go ahead. There are only 49 tics left. You snooze, you lose.
Interesting, two sane tweets before the conversation goes trumpian, confirming the filmakers point.
Hi ! How can i legally see your film in France ?
Imagine thinking “Too nuanced” is a valid argument. Yes, complex issues tend to require complex discussions. If those discussions are too “nuanced” for you, maybe you should keep your ignorant, lazy opinions to yourself. OR continue to help JP by making an absolute fool of yourself in articles like this. Either way, it’s a win win for us. Your cancerous ideology is finally dying. Thankfully, the internet’s starting to see how full of shit people like you are. Oh and please keep advocating for censorship. It’ll make it blatantly obvious how insane the modern left has become. We dont even need to campaign. You dumbasses are doing it for us.
I have watched a dozen of his Youtube videos. I find him fascinating. In the trailer you could see that his house is full of artwork that is theological or ideological (like the Soviet propaganda posters). It is almost like going inside his head. What the Left hates about him is that he dares to express common sense views such as that we are spiritual beings, that politics has become a religion, that men and women are different for good evolutionary reasons, and that ideas and actions have consequences. All these are bad things according to the Left. For example, the fact that women tend to be more agreeable because they have for a million years been needing to protect children and because they are less strong, and that men are more prone to take big risks are facts well-known and well-documented in psychology, but are anathema to the feminists… Read more »
It is quite disturbing that a film about Jordan Peterson can be cancelled in this way. Peterson is very conservative and does not advocate violence or discrimination. Regardless of whether you agree with him, and I often don’t his views should be capable of being heard. If Peterson can be supressed then almost any view can be.
Jordan Peterson is getting plenty of positive coverage. I wouldn’t be too worried about this movie. I am certain it will be made available to the general public if necessary. Big deal if some movie house doesn’t want to screen it.
I would love to see this movie but as a single dad, it is challenging to get out to the theatres. Can this movie be made available on-demand or purchased on-line? I have read JP’s 2 books and listened/watched most of his videos. He is very misunderstood by people who only listen to the media’s opinion of him, which is not only negative but full of hate. Unfortunately, these days, hatred sells. JP has a LOT to offer the world. A lot of possitivity. Tough love. He also understands and tries to communicate the value of sacrifice. Not too many people want to hear his message because it is painful and uncomfortable. That’s unfortunate. Going to the doctor is also uncomfortable but necessary if you want to be healthy. I think we all need a dose of JP on a weekly basis, like taking Buckley’s medicine. His video series on… Read more »
I don’t know what’s going on here but every single comment above mine has more downvotes than upvotes. Even comments as inoffensive as “I hope I get a chance to see that film.” I’ve never seen that before in a discussion forum.
how to reinvigorate nuance in the online world: eliminate both up and down votes in comments, forums and social media. how can you have meaningful, thoughtful conversations if everyone involved is sitting there turning their thumbs up or down at every statement or argument anyone makes? how does that not subconsciously bias most readers towards or against an opinion by giving it a popularity/infamy score right there on the surface? maybe if you don’t know how the community feels about an idea without reading their replies you’re more likely to judge those ideas on their merits.
JP is a social Darwinist and a right wing paranoid. He says “postmodernists” instead of commies (cool trick!). I’ve met a number of young men with self-damaging misconceptions about women because of this creep.
Wasn’t this film originally titled “shut him down: the rise of Jordan Peterson?” …..it suddenly occurs to me maybe some people complained because it is actually an anti- Peterson film….I’m not sure I would call it nuanced….There is a big difference in nuance and shallow bias. Even if it does offer different perspectives it doesnt matter when some of these “perspectives” are not at all true. You can call it nuance, but some people call it lies. And when you title a film something like “Kill the Police”, I think most people assume you mean something like “shut down the police”….I think the CBC gave this a run because there are people who work for that Government funded broadcaster that are very biased…..Not a good trait in any sort of journalism. Its almost as if certain cbc staffers try to decide public opinion themselves. Also it is not a very… Read more »
I am sorry, I was really looking forward to this movie, but I will never support anyone not ready to fight for something precious to them. That’s why the cancel culture spreads, people take the moral high ground and do nothing.
I hope I get a chance to see that film.
Please understand most people are just one tiny click above moron, so they need to be told what to do.
The left recognized that fact and have embraced the moron as their own, that’s probably the real reason your movie was rejected, morons don’t get nuance and the left hates Jordan Peterson, so it’s a match made in San Francisco or if you prefer, Hell.
The right on the other hand has embraced the remaining fraction of people that are a giant leap above moron. People who don’t need to be told what to think.
My advice? Bring your movie to the so called “flyover states” and leave urban areas to deal with feces and used needles on the sidewalks as a replacement for thoughtful entertainment. .
That’s why I always say that there is no difference between modern “progressive” and Sturmabteilung