On Tuesday, a film about the Milton Hershey School was screened at Tribeca Cinema. The director Cynthia Wade and the producing agency ArnoldNYC walked a fine line with their closed wall client to come up with a documentary that would be both compelling and serve the clients' needs. Together, they solved a big problem. They stretched a thin budget, recast client suggestions, and took cameras outside the school walls. Trust and vision let the film meet its mark.
In Detroit, an even bigger problem needs to be solved: “America’s most struggling city needs to attract business and talent.” To help, Time Inc. invited agencies with Detroit offices to develop campaigns to encourage young and creative people to consider Detroit as a place to live and work. The result? Pretty conventional. Yet, no barriers were placed on the agencies. With skies wide open, why hold back? Has the nature of advertising in general become to create: oatmeal?
Think about it. The problem with Detroit is an American problem, not a regional one. We've been quick to let our cities sink into the sea once they're tarnished. What makes cities work is intensity. To revive their spirit means to conjure up that intensity.
In Detroit, you have a city that once sold its soul to the auto companies. It couldn't hold onto many of its own. Consider Detroit's Class of 1984. scenarioDNA's own Tim Stock (a University of Detroit high school grad), Majesty Crush's Odell Nails (now a lawyer and with Mahogany in NYC), Philly artist Michael Frechette, NY film maker John Walter who cut his teeth in Detroit on Evil Dead II with Sam Raimi's Renaissance Pictures and Mark Crilley creator of Akiko who went around the world before choosing to settle in an outlying Michigan city, not Detroit. Has anyone ever thought to ask them why they left and how to strengthen bonds to bring them (or those like them) back?
Powerful stories exist within the city, as well as among all the ex-pat Detroiters, who never dress the city down while the rest of us sweep where we come from under the rug. Now that's compelling. There is a dialog to leverage from those ex-pats to those living and breathing within the city limits.
Detroit is a narrative that extends beyond the city and its suburbs. It lives in New York. It lives in Arizona. It lives in LA. It lives in Philly.
Sadly, unimaginative thinking among those charged with pushing the message of Detroit will further erase the troubled city from the states if we don't all pull together. To bring the city back to its glory, all the narrative threads need to be identified, organized and brought together. We can't get bogged down by politeness and mired in consensus. Don't erase Detroit. Tweet your Detroit stories with the hashtag #erasedetroit. (Photo: Abandoned house by smooveb)