Immense tragedies leave many scarred and without closure, minds full of unending questions, and virtually no solutions. But beauty can come of tragedy, and that is exactly what filmmaker Tim McGrath has set out to do.
Survivor of the July 20th, 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, McGrath has created a screenplay called “Aurora,” with testimonies from many of the victims of the shooting. Upon hearing of the Sandy Hook shooting months later while in class at the University of Southern California, McGrath felt compelled to take action. Wanting to create a first-hand view of the horrific incident, McGrath stated, “With any event, I’d much rather hear the story from those who were there, than a reporter or a commentator guessing what it was like.” Working closely with the Aurora Strong Resilience Center, McGrath united with those willing to share their stories. “With this movie, I’m interested in the strength and inspiration that comes out of an unimaginable circumstance. Humans can be wonderfully amazing creatures, and I wanted to show and share that,” he said.
Most commonly when tragedies like this occur, the focus is on the perpetrator; who they are, where they came from, what could have possibly compelled them to commit such a hateful act. By shifting the perspective of this film from the criminal to the victims, Tim says, “I find this much more interesting and informative than the current main focus on those who commit these awful acts. In the film we see strength, resilience, inspiration, by watching those who lived through it.” Expanding the definition of victim, McGrath notes, “It’s also very important to understand that mass shootings affect a wide range of people, both those who were physically present and those who were not.”
Although the great weight of the film revolves around personal accounts of the July 20th shooting, there is a larger message behind the film: gun violence. With gun violence being a prominent source of catastrophe, “I wish it would stop,” is the simple statement McGrath had to say about gun violence in today’s society. Referencing an article by Tom Junod in Esquire, McGrath believes that, “There may be a more effective way to prevent it than what we are currently doing.”
Hatred and hostility have become much easier to act upon, when their effects on the other person are hidden, and that is one of the main issues regarding gun violence–anonymity. “Mass shootings by definition have an element of being anonymous. Even if it gives someone pause in day to day circumstances. People who hate in traffic, on the internet; anonymity can be a barrier to understanding and compassion,” Tim says.
Writing and producing “Aurora,” Tim is using art to make a statement about today’s society. “Art is ongoing. At it’s best, art is reflective of the society in which it exists. As society constantly changes, so does the art and interpretation of it,” he says. Using the film American Sniper as an example, McGrath believes that art is a way for people to decide on how they view certain topics, such as what it means to be a hero.
Prevention and help are goals of this film, and McGrath hopes that, “This movie can help one person find strength after any kind of tragedy or trauma, or prevent someone from doing something horrible to another human, once they see the effect of their actions.”
The power of art can be much greater than the power of a loaded gun, and with hopes that this movie will change the mindset of many, and give haven to others, McGrath is set up for success.