Sharon Stone: “Filmmaking Can Affect the Way We Think and Feel.”
The first Forum launched by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the World Bank Narrating Behavior Change Program had the headline “Global Challenges Require Global Solutions,” and centered on innovative partnerships between the entertainment and development sectors.
Several crucial questions were asked, and several profound answers were given, challenging Hollywood and global content creators to join forces and expand their focus on edutainment – immersing audiences in engaging stories while providing useful information.
One of the keynote speakers was Sharon Stone, Golden Globe-winning actress, producer, artist and activist, who has used her own powerful voice to promote social change for decades.
Her philanthropic work has extended to building schools in Africa, promoting peace in the Middle East, as well as advocating for HIV/AIDS, NTDs, and women’s brain health issues. Stone has been speaking to the audience both via media and on her own Instagram profile, sharing the latest philanthropic updates with her 3.3 million followers.
Presenting at the first HFPA/World Bank Forum on July 27, 2022, Stone remembered that she had been the US Juror for the third Health for All Film Festival held by the World Health Organization in December 2021: “We started to see documentaries about diseases and illness around the world, and how that really impacts filmmaking. I see that filmmaking can affect all corners of the way we think and the way we feel.”
One of the key messages conveyed by Stone at the event was that of the gap between entertainment and government. She stated: “One of the key things we have to really understand about the entertainment world is that, here in America, it is our second largest taxable export. Think about that from the financial aspect, from the banking aspect. What that really means, country to country, and then what that means politically. Our governments are shutting down all our arts programs, which is in direct conflict with the fact that this raises more money. Entertainment raises more money for all our countries, and all our government’s taxes than almost any other revenue that we make.”
“There is no logic in this relationship between entertainment and government. This is something that we really, really need a bridge to, because it does not make sense.”
As an artist herself, Stone expressed her frustration with the cancelation of rehabilitation through arts programs in correctional institutions: “We understand that recidivism in prisons is absolutely directly affected by arts programs. When prisoners have arts programs, they don’t go back to prison. It’s a fact, but the government cancels those art programs. Are prisons more financially serving the country and the community? Are they more financially rewarding? No, entertainment is. We know that, but it’s more oppressive to put people in prison.”
One of the key objectives of the Forum was to push for potential collaboration opportunities between entertainment and development, and to understand what that really means. Stone raised the following questions: “What do we put the grants forward for? Where are our political liaisons? Where are our lobbyists that are helping us with this political giant misunderstanding and this oppression that’s coming back and forth?
She added, “We have to get the government in league with the understanding that this is one of our largest taxable resources, this is one of the key elements that we have here. Whether you have 800 films a year in Hollywood, or 3,000 films a year in India, an incredibly impoverished environment, we need to start to see a cooperative effect between the government and the entertainment community because it’s the only thing that has logic.”
An ardent advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, Stone declared: “When I started working on AIDS, there were nine to eleven million people with AIDS. When I would go and speak, people did not want to listen, they didn’t want to hear. Then we had 20 million, 30 million, then eventually we have 40 million people die of AIDS, but we couldn’t get people to get – ‘We have to get an AIDS vaccine.’ We still don’t have an AIDS vaccine. When we had COVID, immediately we flew into getting a vaccine, but why don’t we fly into getting an AIDS vaccine? Why when we flew into getting a COVID vaccine did we not fly into getting an AIDS vaccine?”
Nevertheless, Stone believes that the entertainment industry can impact and change the situation: “There’s 200 people in the Congress and the Senate in my country. In each country, how many people are in government? Look at how many people are in entertainment, and you see how many films come out a year, 800, 2,000, 3,000. The influence that is happening in the entertainment community is greater than the amount of people and influence and policymakers that are happening in government. Yet the resistance from government is far greater, even though the benefits to government are far greater than any resistance.”
Challenging the entire industry, Stone also asked: “Why, when we are beneficial to one another, are we not working hand in hand?” She gave as examples Water.org, Matt Damon’s non-profit organization working to bring water and sanitation to the world, and Heifer International, a development organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock, going on to ask another question: “When we know we can provide grants, why don’t we provide grants that work beneficially with other grants?”
She continued: “When we know that Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Prize for the microloan, why aren’t we bringing microloans in with, say, another organization to bring livestock into a place, that’s bringing water into a place, that’s bringing seeds? Why aren’t we bringing all the wholeness in instead of just throwing spaghetti at a wall?”
Concluding her powerful speech, she ended: “We have to think about what we do because we are the one thing, entertainment, that is a global touch. We go beyond policy. We go beyond every other business in the world.
“I know this specifically because Sharon Stone is like Tampax or Q-tips. It’s a word that goes into the Amazon Rainforest. It’s a word that goes into Dubai. It’s a word that goes into Saudi Arabia. It’s a word that goes into China. It’s a word that goes into Brazil.
“I’m no longer just, ‘I’m Sharon,’ but ‘Sharon Stone’ is a global construct that goes everywhere. And by understanding what happened with my fame, I came to understand what happens by creating a unified perspective once I became a global being. I understood that everything is a global reality. And we have the opportunity, through entertainment, to touch in a global way and then to heal and impact in a global way. When we do that, if we do it logically and sensibly, we can actually heal communities in a whole way.”