I grew up in the backwoods of Colorado as a free spirit, something that can be seen when you view my new film, “Regulation.”
The main character, Kaleigh, spends her days running around the wilderness, darting in-and-out of other people’s property, creating worlds in her head. This independent, free-range, self-sufficient ethos was embedded in me from the beginning.
However, when I moved to New York City for film school, I started to understand the way that urban areas work, with hundreds of interdependent structures and institutions, and the need for them to run well for the city to properly function. After that, I moved to Washington DC, and saw the way that people on both sides of the aisle work and govern.
I have friends from across the political spectrum—from people committed to “dismantling the administrative state” to big-government believers who think that the state can solve all problems—both who go to work every day to make the world a better place.
Since then, I’ve sought to explore these two different worlds, distilling each side’s viewpoint in an empathetic, character-driven way, and I hope that’s what I’ve done with “Regulation.”
Set in the near future, the film follows Mia (Sunita Mani, “GLOW”) a young social worker who travels to a small community to administer behavior-modifying “patches” that guarantee happiness for the wearers.
She must decide what to do when a precocious girl (Audrey Bennett, Broadway’s “Frozen”) refuses to accept the patch.
The inspiration for this world came from a personal place for me. I have a close family member who struggles with severe mental health issues, and the way that we understand and help people with these challenges is always on my mind.
So, when I stumbled across a Harvard bioethicist’s blog discussing the idea of an always-on, perfectly-administered drip dosage of antidepressants, an entire world began to form in my head where this technology was a part of everyday life.
I started to think about what this could do for people in our country, but also what it would do for our culture. Who would use it? How would we handle this as a society? And also, how might the government try to address the disparity in privilege this technology would create between children who grow up with the wealth to be “happy” and those who do not?
This led me to think about what the government’s responsibility is to “level the playing field” in healthcare and where can human freedom be factored into these decisions?
There are a number of contentious issues in our country that, at their core, are discussions that pit something that might make society “better” against a loss of individual freedoms.
We all agree it’s good and within the government’s role to remove citizens’ “freedom” to drive on the left side of the road in return for safe passage. But where should the line be between giving up a freedom that makes society a better place, and allowing citizens to retain important autonomy?
Many of us disagree about where this delineation might be for policies like guns, education or medical care, but I hope that this film serves as a starting place to discuss these issues, and for each side to empathize with the values and motivations of the other, as well as how good intentions can have adverse consequences.
Exploring this theme in the context of sci-fi was so important for me because the battle lines are already drawn around these issues.
To have this discussion about healthcare or guns would just result in re-hashing worn talking points for either side. But when exploring it with a fictional device—the “happy patch”—allows both sides to open their eyes to what the other side might see.