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Michael B. Jordan Talks ‘All About the Heart’ Approach to Making Inclusive Films

Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los
John Salangsang/Variety/REX/Shut

Michael B. Jordan addressed how he goes about choosing projects with socially impactful messages during the Produced By conference in Los Angeles on Saturday.

“Starting in front of the camera, from the actor’s perspective, it’s all about the heart. It’s about wanting to create bodies of work and tell stories that will make people go home and think thoughts that will weigh heavily on their heart.”

Jordan was speaking as part of the panel “Content With A Conscience: Social Impact Entertainment Across All Platforms.” The other panelists were: Alana Mayo, president of production and development for Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions; Bonnie Abaunza, founder of Abaunza Group; writer, producer, and director Scott Z. Burns; and Shivani Rawat, founder and CEO of ShivHans Pictures.

Echoing Jordan’s comments, Mayo said that there is a “sense of personal responsibility” she and Jordan feel when deciding on what kinds of projects and messages to put out into the word.

“I think there is a sense of personal responsibility to represent our experience because that is not something you have consistently seen in films and television,” she said. “It comes from a very organic and personal place but we try to be mindful, once we find the story that inspires us, of how that can impact people that are going to see it and how we can add positive things to the cultural conversation.”

Speaking of his experience making the film “Contagion” with Steven Soderbergh, Burns said he never purposefully sets out to make a film with an overarching message, but rather takes a story first approach to all his projects.

“For us, when we were making the movie, I wasn’t really thinking about the measles,” he said. “I was thinking about the audience and making what I thought would be a suspenseful, cool ride. I don’t think anyone sits there going, ‘It’s OK that the camera work was was s—-y or the actor was disingenuous or the dialogue was on the nose if it’s got some sort of social relevance.'”

Abaunza has worked on campaigns around socially conscious films like “Blood Diamond,” “Hotel Rwanda,” and recent best picture nominee “Roma,” which she recently took the United Nations.

“I took the film to the U.N. and I took it specifically to the International Labour Organization, which is the oldest agency of the United Nations and is the agency that focuses on all labor issues,” she said. “They screened the film and they brought Yalitza Aparicio, the lead of the film, to speak on International Womens’ Day on the rights of domestic workers. Now the ILO is using that film and the campaign to push Protocol 189 globally to get countries to sign on to protect the rights of domestic workers.”