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Jacob Kornbluth: “Inequality For All”

I also wish I could live in a world with less technology. I hate the dings, buzzes, and interruptions distracting my thoughts. I’d like to go live somewhere without tech so I could focus on the people around me and the life around me rather than the screen in front of me. I’d like to […]

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I also wish I could live in a world with less technology. I hate the dings, buzzes, and interruptions distracting my thoughts. I’d like to go live somewhere without tech so I could focus on the people around me and the life around me rather than the screen in front of me. I’d like to start a movement to shut off all screens after 5pm and on weekends.


Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Jacob Kornbluth. Jacob is an Emmy-award winning writer and director. His latest project, “Talk Boring to Me,” an original animated series created in collaboration with W. Kamau Bell, examines the most relevant social issues facing the US in easy-to-understand videos. The 6-episode video series available now on Bell’s YouTube channel.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

Iam the child of communist parents from New York City. My dad died when I was young, and we moved to rural Michigan where my mother’s family was from. This gave me a sense of both “blue state” and “red state” sensibilities, and an empathy for both. I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be an artist, but my mother died when I was 18. I started questioning in some dark and complex ways what I was doing here, and that’s when I discovered storytelling. When I got into storytelling, I started out in comedy. I was driven by a love of the craft of storytelling and writing, and making things fun and entertaining to watch. So, the fact that I wound up working in documentary filmmaking — and issue-based documentary filmmaking, at that — is pretty surprising. But I’ve come to think of it as a meandering journey with a kind of a purpose. I like to think that my focus on story and entertainment differentiates my political work. For instance, I made a film called “Inequality For All”, about widening economic inequality. My wife is a whip-smart public school teacher but generally hates following the news and headlines because she finds it depressing. When she loved the film I’d made about widening economic inequality, I knew I had made the film I wanted to make. I like to think my voice as a filmmaker is bringing a lightness to heavy or complex topics, and making them accessible to everyone.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

At the first test screening for my first feature film, I remember being so nervous that I sat in the car with my brother, Josh (the co-creator of the film), cursing the people going in. I was getting pre-angry for how (I was sure) they were going to judge the film. Needless to say, I was relieved when they stayed through the whole film, clapped rather than threw tomatoes, and didn’t call me a worthless piece of tripe.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on a coronavirus bailout / fossil fuel social media rapid response video project with a group called “The Years Project” that is changing the way I think about climate issues. I did a TV show, called “Years Of Living Dangerously”, with them a few years ago that was on Showtime and won an Emmy for Best Nonfiction Series. It gives me something to do between pokemon card games with my 7 year old and games of go fish with my 5 year old. Parenting / working in the age of quarantine means no boundaries between work and life! But it is a great project to focus on in these crazy times.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

James Cameron fired me off a video project for the Democratic National convention. Is that interesting? Or is it boring because James Cameron fires everyone? He was a brilliant filmmaking mind to be around before it all fell apart.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I’d go with Howard Zinn, who wrote “The People’s History of the United States” and changed the way I think about things. I learned the people who get to tell the story have tremendous power. I got to meet him once, and all I could think of is how does a guy who spent his whole life resisting still look so happy? I hope I never stop fighting, and never stop having a good time doing it — just like Howard Zinn.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I’m answering as a white guy, but one who has always found special appreciation for voices who are different than me. These three reasons are personal:

1) I’ve always seen diversity as strength, homogeneity as weakness.

2) I can also honestly say that I did this project (like I do all projects) with Kamau to learn how I can be better. White dudes like me have to do the work; to learn and listen. The culture is better and stronger for it. Kamau is brilliant, challenged me, and taught me a lot.

3) This goes back to an earlier answer: who gets to tell the stories is very powerful. Working with women and people of color makes the stories both more truthful and more interesting.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This wouldn’t be a new movement I’d start, but I’m serious about helping to get Trump out of office. I genuinely fear for the world if he gets a second term.

I also wish I could live in a world with less technology. I hate the dings, buzzes, and interruptions distracting my thoughts. I’d like to go live somewhere without tech so I could focus on the people around me and the life around me rather than the screen in front of me. I’d like to start a movement to shut off all screens after 5pm and on weekends.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) Film seems like its all about equipment, expensive sets, and lots of stuff. It isn’t. Its about you and an idea. At some point in film, you can’t hide behind all the stuff and you feel really exposed. The truth of you and your idea is unteachable. The rest is execution and technical know-how you can learn.

2) Is there any idea you care so much about that you’ll still believe in it if everyone you know and love tells you no? Whatever is in that idea is what it takes to be a filmmaker.

3) Don’t write thinking of words. Write the scene you see in your head. My first script was too wordy, too crafted. When I started just describing the scenes in my head, it took longer to write each scene but the actual writing was much easier.

4) Work with the smartest people you can. It doesn’t matter what the pay is. Pay, shmay (easy for me to say, I know, but I have spent a significant portion of my life broke, so these are words I’ve lived by…) The truth is smart people make good stuff, Good stuff begets more good stuff, and that’s how careers are made.

5) The world doesn’t need more art or artists. You aren’t doing the world a favor by allowing them to see / read / watch your work. Never forget this job is a privilege.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

This answer might change day to day. But for today: Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. He went to Michigan State University, I went to Michigan State University, and I’ve followed his career. I love his “world-is-against-me, I’ll take all ya’ll on” fight. He’s a testament to how far attitude can get you, and a born fighter. Plus, he seems like he’s as smart as he is strong. It’d be fun to have a bloody mary with him some afternoon.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website is jacobkornbluth.com. Or friend me on your favorite social media platform.

Thank you for these excellent insights!

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