The origin of the name ‘Terrible Master Films’

There have been a few instances over the years where I have been asked where my film company name came from, and there have been a few misconceptions as well. I don’t remember ever writing about it publicly, so I figured I might as well take a few minutes to explain the origin of the name Terrible Master Films.

I’ll address some of the misconceptions first: It’s not related to the transatlantic slave trade, American chattel slavery, or really, any form of slavery at all.

I can see where that misconception may come from, though. I mean, I’m a white guy in Alabama who has directed films that involve race, history, and social justice like Remembering Anarcha, The Time is Now, and in·dig·e·nous, so maybe some people think the name is somehow used in irony or something. But no, that’s not it.

It comes from a quote that stood out to me during a period of deep depression a few years ago:

“The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”

The first instance I remember reading that phrase was on Brain Pickings. Later, I found this RadioLab post about it. Both are linked on the “about” page on the Terrible Master Films website.

Brain Pickings shared a graduation speech given by David Foster Wallace. The speech, commonly known as “this is water,” references the quote thusly:

“…Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’ This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master…”

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that this is not the first time I’ve discussed mental health, and as I said above, I stumbled across that quote during a deep depression I was in. I had finally started seeing a therapist and was doing a lot of reading about life, philosophy, and mental health.

That quote was powerful to me. The way I looked at it, when I’m in control, I can make my mind do the things I need and want to do, whether it’s writing a song, working on a film, or just trying to be creative in general. But when my mind was in control, it became the terrible master, leading to depression and feelings of worthlessness. (For others, it may be anxiety or a variety of other things.)

So the name Terrible Master Films serves as a personal reminder for me that mental health is important, and to attempt to keep the terrible master at bay.

As always, thanks for reading. Much love.

Terrible Master Films is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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