Stephen Gyllenhaal has decades of experience as a filmmaker and Hollywood insider. In person he’s a charming raconteur who stuck around Salon’s New York studio for several minutes after our interview was concluded, live-streaming an impromptu backstage video on Instagram. He seems relatively good-humored about the fact that his last name is most familiar because of other people who share it. (To be clear, those people would be actor Jake Gyllenhaal and actor-director Maggie Gyllenhaal, who are his children.) 

In his new film, “Uncharitable” — which he doesn’t want to call a documentary, for somewhat inscrutable reasons — the senior Gyllenhaal has adopted a peculiar but arguably important social justice crusade: redeeming the reputation and the transformative possibilities of the nonprofit sector and more specifically of “charities,” which as he observes has become a mildly poisonous term. Thanks to the repeated attacks of TV journalists, often in the form of misbegotten “exposés” largely devoid of nuance or context, numerous prominent not-for-profit charitable organizations have either been destroyed or radically downsized in this century, amid the widespread perception that they’re wasting money on “overhead”: executive salaries, marketing campaigns, travel, conferences and consultants and so on. Donors often insist that their dollars must go to “programs” — whether that means housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, providing medical care to children with disabilities, funding cancer research or any of a million other worthwhile causes — as if those things could happen in an institutional vacuum, with no professional management, strategy or planning. 

“Rich people, middle-class people and poor people all are in need of understanding how charity really works.”

The decidedly unsexy but provocative message of “Uncharitable” is that given the realities of a capitalist economy — language Gyllenhaal carefully avoids, both in his film and in conversation — the nonprofit sector is crucial to creating social progress and social change, and is being unfairly hamstrung by made-up standards that no one would ever apply to an ordinary for-profit business venture of any scale or any size. We know what the CEOs and other top executives at major corporations earn (and in most cases it’s way too much — another issue Gyllenhaal steers around), and we know that billions of dollars are spent every year on advertising and marketing campaigns for consumer products and services whose social value is, shall we say, debatable. Why should charitable nonprofits have to operate by completely different standards, following some invented monastic code, paying starvation salaries and avoiding the kinds of marketing or advertising campaigns that can help organizations become larger and more successful at doing what they do?  

One might argue that the answer to that question lies in the inherited puritanical ethos of capitalism, which essentially holds that working in order to maximize profit and wealth is inherently virtuous and normal, whereas working for the benefit of others — the poor, the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, the sick and injured (or, for that matter, the whole society) — is inherently suspect, the domain of religious zealots and radicals and other marginal characters, who in any case are fine with tiny apartments and 15-year-old Subarus. “Uncharitable” put me in mind of Max Weber’s famous quip that all Americans are Protestants, whether they think they are or not. So anyway, Stephen Gyllenhaal stopped by to talk about all this, and despite the earnest nature of the message, it was good fun.

Watch my “Salon Talks” with Gyllenhaal here or read a transcript of the interview below, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Let’s acknowledge right up top that people may recognize your last name and it is not in fact an accident. You are related to other people with that last name; it appears that two of your children have done pretty well.

I don’t know, I’m slightly disappointed. I thought they’d make something of themselves.

It’s hard to be a parent.

Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to face these things, and I’ve learned — I shouldn’t really joke about it because there are a lot of parents that really do struggle, of course. In another part of my life I have my own charity, which is about mental health, but I still think you have to joke about everything, even when you’re facing really, really dark stuff. So I’m going to keep joking about my sad kids who have made nothing of themselves. And, I’m not riding on their name in any way whatsoever.

Let’s get to the reason why we’re here. So the minute you say the words “nonprofit sector” to someone, how close to sleep are they?

If they’re even awake when you get past the word “non.” I mean, you might as well shoot yourself making your sector about non-something. I think “nonprofit” is one problem. Another problem is “charitable.”

I mean, I’m a charitable human being. I say that, and you want to run out of the room. If you use the word charitable, you’re a hypocrite. I think the level of skepticism around this sector, which I had as well, is unwarranted but is deeply ingrained in the culture. If you work in the sector and you go back to your class reunion and you say, “I work in the charitable sector,” they just look over your shoulder to talk to anyone else. It would’ve been me. I’m the Hollywood director that, when I go back to my class reunion I’m the star, until I said I was making a movie about charity. Then they have to remember that somewhere I had a career and also I had these kids, so I was still worth listening to. But a lot of the shine went out of their eyes and what they thought of me.

In fact, it’s been profoundly difficult. imagine you have a lot of money, and I say, “You want to invest in a movie about charity?” What would you say? We’re not going to make any money and we’re going to make it on a wing and a prayer, so it’s only going to cost whatever. In the end, the movie did not cost nothing, and the marketing of it has not cost nothing, because we made a movie, not a documentary. I take offense to that.

Oh, I’m so sorry. Personally, I like documentaries.

I love documentaries, but I love movies. I tried to make a movie here that’s a real movie because I want people to be entertained. I want them to be moved. I want them to learn something, but “learning” is also a bad word when it comes to movies, because you want to learn from the heart, not from the head. That was a complicated process with this movie, but I have to say I have never been happier making it.

OK, so you wanted to tell a story. A story has to have characters and conflict, and this one definitely does. Your main character is a guy named Dan Pallotta, kind of a famous and in some ways controversial figure in the nonprofit world. Tell us about Dan and why you focused on him.

Dan first was a friend of mine, because we kind of thought the same way about the world. That’s really what our connection was. Whatever you work in, you kind of believe you’re not that good at it, particularly if you do it well, because if you do it well, you have to admit to having made a thousand mistakes all the time. All the people I know who are amazingly successful in IMDb or in the real world or whatever, when you hang out with them, they feel humbled and oftentimes humiliated because the reality is, you just don’t know what you’re doing most of the time.

The people who are the best filmmakers in the world are the ones who never made a movie. Once you’ve made a movie, you know you’re not the best. Even Steven Spielberg, who is a friend, is real and alive and has doubts about himself. 

Dan and I never really talked about what we did, the fact that he was becoming a very successful activist and that I was becoming a pretty successful filmmaker in Hollywood. I had two kids I was raising — again, we talked about the sadness of how they’ve turned out. It was a lot of work raising them, so I never went on Dan’s AIDS rides. I didn’t really pay much attention to it, but I knew he dressed well, for one thing,

Dan created the AIDS rides, which were a huge deal in the late ’90s into the 2000s, approximately speaking, and also created walks for breast cancer. Hugely successful charitable ventures, for a while.

He raised half a billion dollars in unrestricted funds. “Unrestricted funds” is a really important piece about this because that means it was given to organizations, AIDS charities being the most benefited by it, to do with as they thought. 

If you look at a lot of charities, they don’t work out so well, and a lot of the movie is about that. AIDS research worked out OK because it really took a disease that, at the time, looked like it was going to destroy a huge amount of the population, and eventually made it highly treatable. Because of those unrestricted funds, at least in part. But at the time that Dan did it, Ronald Reagan was president and there was a whole thing about it. It’s their fault. 

So there was this invented scandal, basically . . .

Yeah, related to the unrestricted funds, which had profoundly impacted that sector. He was destroyed by it. 

I was actually scouting a location in Canada. I remember I was driving down the coast looking for a location, and we were in a production van listening to NPR, and up came the news Dan’s venture had all been destroyed. He’d gone under. I hadn’t talked to him in a month or two, and I called him right away assuming I wouldn’t hear from him for a long time because usually he’d take a week or so to get back to me. He picked up the phone like that. I said, “What the hell happened? What’s going on?” And he said, “Well, it’s over. It’s finished. I’m finished.” And he said, “Oh, by the way, you’re the third person to call me today. I am now totally a pariah.” That was my first real intimate connection with all of this. 

“A majority of my donors are conservatives . . . Charity is nonpartisan.”

Quite a few years later, Dan had moved to Boston and we were having lunch. It was around 2016, and he said, “Do you think there’s maybe a movie in what happened to me?” And over a sandwich I said, “It’s interesting, but I’m not sure there’s really a movie here. More like a home movie really.” Then when he told me about some of the other people, [leading figures in the charitable sector] like Steven Nardizzi, Jason Russell and Roxanne Spillett, it became clear to me there was a systemic problem, No. 1, which helped me understand what had happened to Dan, because I didn’t really, except that it was very dramatic. Also the stories were dramatic. I went, OK, we’ve got a Marvel movie here.

Had he done his TED Talk at that time already?

He had, and he’d written his book [also called “Uncharitable,” and the basis for the film]. I didn’t know about either one of them.

So what happened to him and what has happened to the nonprofit sector or the charitable sector generally is this focus on “efficiency” and on not spending money on “overhead.” Dan’s argument is that if you can’t spend money on overhead, you completely destroy the mission. Explain why he thinks that’s true?

Well, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, talked about it in one way. He says, “OK, you want to give all your money to the cause, the homeless cause. Why don’t you just go take a bunch of $100 bills and just give them to the homeless people? Why not? That’s what you expect.” That’s what people expect, and not just what what individuals who are uninformed think.

It takes a little while, although not a lot, to understand that if you have homeless people, you have psychological problems, you have physical problems, you have housing problems. Forty percent of the homeless are military veterans, often suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues. You have to have professionals solving the problem, for instance, of homelessness. You have to have infrastructure to have them taken care of. You have to begin to lay out psychological help, physical help. How do you build the politics of setting up a homeless environment? Where do you get housing? In Los Angeles, this is a huge problem. It demands really smart people doing it. Now, there are a lot of smart people in the sector, but they are so beaten down by having to — has anyone out there ever tried to fill out a grant form? Have you ever done that?

Yeah, it’s a nightmare.

You go, “I want to shoot myself.” I tried to do a grant for this movie. First of all, nobody would give a grant in the foundations because making a movie is “overhead.” How I got here today, in an Uber, that cost money. That was overhead. Everything in the movie is overhead. Yet the movie may have more impact on changing the sector than anything. 

I tried to fill out one of those grants and yeah, I wanted to shoot myself. That’s what primarily these charities have to deal with. Or you have to go out and beg for money. We actually ended up raising almost $2 million to make this movie and to market it, to the point where we are. 

Now I’m trying to raise another million dollars to give out free tickets, and we’re in the process of doing that. Charity is about helping people in need. Rich people, middle-class people and poor people all are in need of understanding how charity really works. That’s what this movie’s really about, so we’re giving out free tickets. I’m trying to raise money where we would spend 30% on marketing and 70% on giving away free tickets. We’re already starting that process, which is a very complicated process.

Right now I am booking theaters, we’re in 34 cities, and we want to be in more cities. So anyone out there who goes, “Well, you’re not in Cincinnati,” please go to a theater near you and say to them, “I want to bring the movie here.” Connect with our team. They will help set up all the charities in the area to help fill the theaters. We also want to move beyond charities, ultimately, into the mainstream. It’s a movie! It’s not a boring documentary. OK, documentaries are not boring, but they have their own reputation that’s hard to shake. The dynamics of really changing this sector, the dynamics of allowing charities to do their work, is very expensive. All money is energy and we’re trying to move energy into this sector.

Dan’s argument, if I understand it correctly, is that if nonprofits, charitable organizations, are a type of business, they need to be allowed to operate by the same rules as other businesses. But effectively they are not, because of demands that are put on them that are not put on Coca-Cola or Amazon or Google or Apple or any other giant corporation. Is that fair?

Totally fair. I would say, I’m not sure which version of the movie you saw, because I’ve been finishing it. I finished it literally a week ago because I’m a crazy filmmaker. I’m one of those people who drive everybody crazy. Did you see the version where the video comes on at the end and Dan says, “Please donate”?

I don’t think so.

You didn’t, because that’s just in the last couple of weeks. So what we’re doing is: Go see the movie for free, and at the end it asks you to donate so other people can see it for free. We’re trying to build a forest fire of energy around the movie. I’m seeing, now that the movie is done, that it helps to have that little video because it tells the audiences there’s a call to action. A QR code comes up and you do this whole thing.

Another piece of it is to sign the Uncharitable Pledge, which is basically about the “five discriminations” [against charitable organizations] that Dan lays out. One of those is about competitive compensation. You should get paid as well, or almost as well, as you would in the for-profit sector. If you’re a CEO — for instance, Milton Little in talks about how he had a funder who said, “You can make no more than $65,000 a year.” He says, “But I’m running $100 million organization.” The funder says, “It doesn’t matter, you should only make $65,000.”

Which is a demand nobody would ever even consider for a for-profit business that was at that level. Everybody would expect that CEO to be making well into the six figures, or maybe seven.

So why should CEOs make into the six figures? I think sometimes it’s too much, but if the company’s doing really well, who cares? People have too much money, that’s another problem. Too much money. You talk to kids who are from families that have too much money, that’s a problem too. But if someone is making a couple of million dollars, you would hope that means the people under them are doing well too. If your CEO is making $65,000, the people under that are making nothing and then it means you need to work with volunteers.

“There are trillions of dollars locked up in the charitable sector in which 5% is just spun off in a year.”

There’s nothing wrong with volunteers, except when you’re dealing with profoundly complicated problems. The thing that’s interesting about the sector, as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into it, it’s that one thing to make Coca-Cola or even a Tesla. Those are products. In the charitable sector you are working with people, and working with almost intractable problems that we generally feel pretty hopeless about. We don’t really expect them to get better, but what we’re talking about is actually solving these problems. 

Billy Shore, who’s in the film, has actually made it possible that almost every kid in the United States will not go hungry by using all these various methods. It took a very sophisticated, very brilliant person. You’re either going to find them at all the best schools, people who are not working in the sector now who are going into it, or you’re going to unleash the ones who are already there. A lot of people in the sector are terrific, but they are so hamstrung by one grant after the other grant after other grant and then having to kiss some funder on the a**. Sorry. But we are on Salon so it’s OK.

I have had spectacular donors on this movie, and they’ve had their little moments when they’ve been worried that I don’t know what I’m doing, making a movie. Well, I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s the biggest thing you have to learn when you’re making a movie. You don’t know what you’re doing, so you have to rely on other people. I had great people helping me make this movie. I’m lucky to have had a lot of experience in it and I also know it takes a long time to figure out what the hell you’re doing.

I remember a great moment watching Francis Ford Coppola shoot on Sullivan Street when I lived in the city and he was doing “Godfather II.” He had a big megaphone, a lot of people gathered around, maybe like 2,000 people in the street. It was a funeral scene at that church on Sullivan Street and West Houston there was a coffin, and he goes, “OK, everybody go back three feet.” Then, “No, no, go five feet forward.” “Oh, s**t. Oh, can we take those three people . . .?” He went on for like 20 minutes, and that was a huge lesson. He didn’t know what the hell he was doing until he kind of figured it out, and that is one of the great movies of all time, in my mind.

What’s underneath this film, to me a central problem in the way our economy is structured. It’s about a word that I don’t believe appears in your film, that word being “capitalism.” I don’t know if that was a deliberate decision. But Dan talks about the fact that making profit is seen as virtuous in our world and doing what charities and nonprofits do is seen as a little bit dubious or marginal.

I would correct one thing which I get caught into. It’s not “nonprofit.” It’s not-for-profit,

Not-for-profit. Thank you.

That’s important because I think there are a lot of companies that may make a profit, but it’s not for profit, it’s for the mission. For instance, Dan talked about it at one point in something I heard recently: The refrigerator changed food. Elon Musk, whatever you think of him, changed the auto business. Steve Jobs and the computer, profound effect. Steve Jobs never did anything for charity overtly, but he changed it.

So am I a capitalist? Am I a for-profit person? I’ve been in Hollywood my whole life. There’ve been some movies where I’ve been nonprofit, but there’ve been other movies and things I’ve done where it’s been for-profit. The thing is there’s about 10% of the population that don’t really have a market, so the capitalist system is better than any other system, not great, but better than any other system. It’s sort of like what Churchill said about democracy: It sucks, it’s lousy, but it’s better than anything else. I think is the same thing true here so far. I think I’m a progressive, I love AOC, all that kind of stuff, but I also am aware and honor the right-wing.

A couple of examples: one is a lot of my donors, in fact, a majority of my donors are conservatives.

That’s interesting.

The reason why is because charity also is not using government. But also the left-wing is very interested because it’s involved social programs. So for instance, Bill O’Reilly, who’s in the movie who made a mistake about Dan, but Bill O’Reilly supported and brought in Steve Nardizzi around Wounded Warrior and said, “This is wrong.” I don’t agree with Bill O’Reilly about a lot of stuff, but also I grew up in a very conservative environment, I grew up in a religious environment. I left mainly except I have a lot of friends there and a lot of them are Trumpers and their argument is sort of like the end justifies the means, which is what they used to say the communists said, so it’s all complicated. But I think charity is nonpartisan and part of what I think the movie is about more than anything else is how the audience feels.

You walk out on an unconscious level going, I hope by the end of the movie, we go some dark places, I mean we go down to Bosch, that weird, horrible hell and all the apocalyptic movies and all those things. I really wanted on purpose to take us down, down, down to the worst possible thing, and the despair I think we feel now, the hopelessness we feel and the cynicism that we feel now and then slowly bring you out to a sense of real hope at the end. 

I retired from the movie business. I wanted to let my poor sad kids take it over. They’re doing fine, the Gyllenhaal name is doing just fine, I’ll retire. But when I got into this, and also I was like, there’s no place for me. I’m older now, the whole older thing, and I’m a white guy too. There’s a problem. And, I agree there’s a problem with us white guys. I got a daughter who’s now directing and got a son, but we’re all white. I think you were talking earlier about how inexpensive it is now to [make a movie]. 

The song at the end, which is a very sophisticated song produced by Joel Sill who started with doing “Easy Rider” and has done everything since, he figured out a way to do that song at the end with everyone singing from around the world with iPhones which is 4K. Why is that so important? Because it means that rich white people, used to be men, can make movies. One of the things I’ve been really aware of is that where are the best stories being told? They’re with kids who know cinema. These kids may not be able to do grammar because they have lousy schools and all that kind of stuff. They know film inside out. One of the things that moves me really deeply about homelessness for instance, and the fact, oh, we can’t solve the problem of homelessness. Well, we haven’t yet. We also haven’t solved the problem of fires catching, so do we get rid of fire departments? I don’t think it’s a smart idea. But in LA there are kids who are homeless who go to the library, the public library, who at night lean up against the wall so they can get wifi. 

I’ve seen that happen in the Bronx, which is where I live.

Those are the kids that are going to solve climate change. Those are the kids who are dealing with really complex issues and are developing minds that if they are just nourished a little bit, which is what these services do now, will solve these problems. That’s why this is such an important sector and why it needs to be made far more robust and why I think the film finally is about each of us, rich, middle class, white, trans, anything at all. With all this wonderful mosaic of all of us, if we can feel charity inside of ourselves, if the film can help . . . And I think one of the things I would hope in theaters is the people . . . I’m going to be at the Angelic, I’m going to be wherever I can be at screenings. I’ve learned you’re the director, big deal, if there are three people in there, you speak to them and you’re there for them because those are three people are seeing this.

I want people to talk to each other. I want to really have it be a time when you begin to take the skeptical part of yourself, honor the skeptical part of yourself, that scientific methodology, but begin to allow more in the charitable part, the kind part. And capitalism, coming back to that is a really important piece. But the other piece which is giving and caring is critical. Not just for the species to survive, but for each of us to have fun. I mean, I’m having so much fun doing this now and I’m coming back into the movie business because I’m going, wow, there’s stuff to do here. I’m going to keep going until they drag me away or until I’m dead. That’s my position.

Would you agree and would Dan Pallotta agree that, OK, unleashing this sector seems really important and you make a really good case for that. There are problems in the world that this kind of essentially private foundation level endeavor cannot solve. We cannot solve climate change through not-for-profit foundations. That has to happen, as one example, that has to happen at a global governmental and intergovernmental scale. Do you think that’s true?

Totally. I think first of all, what is going on now though? First of all, let’s take it one step at a time. There are trillions of dollars locked up in the charitable sector in which 5% is just spun off in a year. The idea of keeping that money in place is problematic. I’ve been sort of talking about it as financial constipation. It’s like let it go. All these billions of dollars, all this money, all this . . .

I know so many – I know because I’m very privileged and white and male and in Hollywood, all that kind of stuff – I know many, many, many families who are billionaires who have everything, five houses, all that kind of stuff. They’re not happy and their children, it breaks my heart some of the things that happen to those kids, how lost they get believing that stuff solves something. It’s not great to be poor. It’s not great anywhere right now because we have a feeling of hopelessness. It’s not hopeless.

“It’s not great anywhere right now because we have a feeling of hopelessness. It’s not hopeless.”

To come to your question, first of all, there’s trillions of dollars that should be let loose. They almost let some of it loose during the pandemic, because they’re holding onto it because they’re afraid. These people are afraid. We’re all afraid. Dr. Gabor Maté, who’s in the . . . movie that I made, “In Utero” said, “Safety is not in protection. It’s in connection.” Having a gun in your house to protect yourself from thieves may very likely get your child killed. But going to your next door neighbor, having a party hanging out, no matter what neighborhood you, I don’t care if you live in a f**king mansion or if you live in next to nothing or if you’re even homeless, connect with everyone else. You’re going to be much safer, much, much safer.

It’s all about connection and comes back to theaters. So secondly, the connection between the charitable sector and government, for instance or the charitable sector and a mission-driven sector and the for-profit sector is what has to be expanded. If we really make the charitable sector powerful, and this is sort of the strategy behind all this. It’s going to, for want of a better word, infect the other two.

For instance, civil rights and all the laws that changed around civil rights started with nonprofits. All those kinds of things, they were all nonprofits and they were fueled by donations. And as that grew and built in, then there were donations from other sectors, white sectors, Jewish sectors, all those kinds of things that really moved that forward, drove it forward and kept it going.

“An Inconvenient Truth,” which by the way was a movie that really began an impact, Meredith Blake, who’s one of the executive producers on the film, was the impact producer on “An Inconvenient Truth,” and said, “This is the next movie that will have as much impact as ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’” 

The problem with “An Inconvenient Truth,” the challenge was, it was Al Gore, so it kept half of the world out. It was almost, if you could have just had Ronald Reagan do that thing, then the left wing would’ve said it’s bad, and then the right wing would be doing climate change and going, we got to . . . So it’s like you’re going, “Can we get over this thing?” I think that’s a piece of this is that if we are charitable, if we connect, I mean, I had said to someone, when this movie comes out, I want to be on Tucker Carlson show and I want to speak to all that stuff. Well, he’s gone.

He doesn’t have a show anymore. So, you’re here instead.

But I would go on Bill O’Reilly’s show because even though he’s in the movie in a bad way, he was also in the movie in a good way because we have to reach across. I think that’s where the charitable sector works also, that we’re not going to get our senators and congressmen who’ve got to get elected and are doing all the things they have to do to do it. If we can get to the mainstream, if we can get them to open up, and it has to only be a little bit, all you need is five or six votes and we’ll get things through that we need to get through and we have to respect each other. 

I can go on and on and on and on and on and on. You cannot get me out. You got to drag me out of these rooms now. But there’s so much to talk about, but it’s like the truth is those of us who are progressives can learn a thing or two about family from the conservatives. We can learn a thing or two about the universe is huge. I mean, I am not irreligious, I grew up being religious, but I certainly have kind of gone, well my son, my eight-year-old son who loves Marvel movies and loves all those things, said “Dad, dad, what was there before The Big Bang?” “And what is it all going into?” And you’re going, “Guys, gals, whatever. We haven’t answered that question.” We live without really any understanding. And the James Webb Telescope, which I adore, which is going, it’s way bigger. We can learn. We being I am progressive, can learn a tremendous amount from their efforts to try and make some sense out of it. I disagree with a lot of it, but it opens doors there. So the fact that we go after each other the way we do, or have been forced to go after each other the way we do. And in a way, the battles between the right and the left that go on and the things we get fed are not all that different from what we’ve been fed about the charitable sector and going after.

That’s why media is so important. That’s why this movie is so important. That’s why people really should go see it. First of all, it’s fun and it’s interesting and it’s inspiring and blah, blah, blah, blah. And we want to get box office and then it’ll be in streamers, it’ll be in the educational things. And we are going to probably make a TV show after this.

What we’re going to do, finally, I think I want to get to is something Dan came up with a long time ago having done the AIDS rides and all these things and having seen more than anything else, it wasn’t the raising of money for the charity, it was more about the connection between people. 

I think the next piece of all this, and I’m not going to do all this, but I’m going to pull in people who’ve made a fortune and go, “What am I doing with my life?” I’m going to go, “Come help me, help this, put this together. Go back to creating these big events where people connect with each other.” And one of the things Dan talked about when he came up with this idea was, you’re all walking down . . . Bikes are tough, particularly when you get older. I’m not going to ride a bike. I know. We’re almost done. We got to stop. We got to stop. You got to just tell me “Cut.” You got to just say “Cut. We’re done with you. We’re done. Please go away.”

He just said you walk down with a hundred people and there’d be a sign that says, “Turn to the next person, tell them what most scares you.” And one person would be a climate change person and the other would be a sex trafficking person, right and left. That’s sort of what’s going on right now. And you’re going, and the two people talk to each other, one is a kid, a teenage kid dealing with whatever. People start connecting with each other and then a little while later, now turn to the other person and say it. So the idea of connection, connection, connection warms us up, and that’s really what ultimately this is all about.

Watch more

“Salon Talks”

By Andrew O’Hehir

Andrew O’Hehir is executive editor of Salon.

MORE FROM Andrew O’Hehir

 The “Uncharitable” filmmaker discusses the bias against the charitable sector and jokes about his “poor sad kids”  Read More