Break a Leg, Glenn Beck: Politics’ Loss Is America’s Gain

by Tim Cavanaugh

The Hollywood Reporter catches up with Glenn Beck as the former Fox talker and media mogul of TheBlaze gets ready to dive into the movie business in the Lone Star State:

Beck says he is developing three original stories as theatrical films — one set in ancient history, one in modern history and a third he considers “faith-based” — and has optioned several other ideas, some of which could be adapted into VOD features. He adds that he has purchased rights to his 2008 best-seller The Christmas Sweater back from Sony and will turn the story into a movie for television or theatrical release.

The Christmas Sweater is a semi-fictionalized recounting of a 12-year-old Beck celebrating his last Christmas with his mother before she died. He says his later real-life problems with drugs and alcohol (he’s been sober since 1994) can be traced back to that Christmas . . . 

Beck notes it’s too early to specify budgets or potential financing partnerships, though he probably has leverage to attract interested parties, considering TheBlaze lands an estimated $40 million in revenue annually and he earns $20 million a year hosting the radio show, according to sources familiar with his business. He also declined to identify the Hollywood moviemaking talent he has hired so far.

“I bought a movie studio for a reason,” he says. “I have every intent of finding great artists who will tell great stories that aren’t typical. Everybody thinks they know who I am because of my stint on Fox — that was two years of my life. I’m much more into culture than I am into politics, and that’s where I intend on making my stand.”

The very successful 50-year-old political-media entrepreneur says the move will take him not just into a new business but largely out of retail politics:

“The message of that film is: Help each other and just be decent,” says Beck. “We’re beginning to agree that Republicans and Democrats suck — they’ve built this machine to grind people into the ground. I hate this stuff. I hate politics. I hate politicians and I feel like I’m wasting my life. Don’t we all know what’s happening? George W. Bush was taking us down a road, and Barack Obama is taking us down that same road. What difference does it make? I don’t want to waste my life anymore.”

Without any irony, sarcasm, or japery, I wish Beck the very best, for a variety of reasons. I find Glenn Beck’s personal journey in some ways the most interesting thing about him. One of the really enjoyable things about his blackboards-and-org charts Fox show was the sense that you were following along with Beck in his own discoveries. Even if you already knew yourself that Woodrow Wilson was not just another president due some measure of reverence but a priggish, racist, tyrannical monster who contributed more than possibly any other single American to the general horribleness of the 20th century, it was fun and exciting to see Beck sharing the news with everybody, fired by the zeal of a recent convert.

I also, though my own moviemaking experience is so far limited to one feature film, understand absolutely where he is coming from. For starters, making movies is better than political journalism in a strictly technical sense: You don’t have to worry about having your facts straight or quoting people accurately; you can just make stuff up and force people to say what you need them to say, and the actors (and hopefully the audience) will actually be grateful that you did. Your stuff gets read more closely, by highly intelligent and accomplished professionals, than any journalism you’ll ever produce. And if you’re lucky, the end product is something that people might actually pay to see and even feel like they got a good deal.

More people in political journalism would be happier, and probably better at their jobs, if they realized what a small percentage of a normal human life is taken up with politics, and that that percentage is a deadweight loss. The other parts of our lives — the parts including culture and family and money and personal goal-setting and friendship — are far richer and more interesting. Good on Glenn Beck for figuring that out, and for doing his best to share the news with everybody.

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