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Dan Gilroy on Sony hacks: 'It's ethically wrong to reprint stolen material'

(Left to right) Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom and Rene Russo as Nina Romina in
(Left to right) Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom and Rene Russo as Nina Romina in "Nightcrawler," written and directed by Dan Gilroy.
Chuck Zlotnick

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Dan Gilroy's "Nightcrawler" might look like an action movie, but it's also an examination of the vicious cycle between the media and consumers that drives the proliferation of traumatic material, often at the expense of the involved victims.

It's no surprise that Gilroy would have some strong feelings regarding the recent Sony hacks.

When Gilroy dropped by The Frame, he talked about what he views as the "Wild West" nature of online journalism and the difficulty in evaluating Sony's decision to pull "The Interview" form theaters.

Interview Highlights:

You've spent the last couple of years on your film thinking, writing, and talking about the news business, and you're also someone who works in the film business. Those two have really come together over the last couple of weeks, so what are your thoughts on these developments?

Well, when I look at the hacking scandal, in many ways it has disseminated through the world of Internet journalism. And Internet journalism, when I look at it, is really The Wild West, but it has the same prime directive: if you run a blog, or you have an Internet site, and you have your advertising banners on the side, you're in fierce hand-to-hand combat for eyeballs.

I think Aaron Sorkin really put his finger on the black-and-white morality of it, which is how criminally wrong it is to, one, purvey stolen internet material, and secondly, just how morally wrong it is for each one of us to be a part of that and read it.

Well, where do you think the Internet journalists crossed the line with Sony?

I think that if something has been stolen, it's morally, ethically, and journalistically wrong to reprint it. At the same time, I understand; in "Nightcrawler," Rene Russo plays Nina, a news director at the lowest-rated station in Los Angeles, and she's under tremendous pressure to show increasingly graphic, violent images.

And one of the things I tried to do in the film is I tried to say, "Look, I'm not pointing a finger at Nina or her station." I was trying to cast a larger net with "Nightcrawler" \ that, at the end, the viewer might say, "Wait a minute, I'm one of the people that's attracted to these graphic, violent images, perhaps I should be more self-aware of what I'm ingesting here."

So the best way to discourage that kind of conduct is not to read it, not to click on it?

Yeah, I can tell you from a personal standpoint that I had not really given the idea of disseminating hacked e-mails much thought. In making "Nightcrawler" and in becoming more aware of the bombardment of violent, graphic images in our lives, I'm slightly more careful in the morning with what I watch.

I certainly don't want to watch the ISIS beheadings, I probably don't want to look at the schoolroom where 120 poor children were massacred in Pakistan — there are just things that I don't want to put in or follow-through on. There may not be a direct connection between them, but I think we're all going to have to find our own boundaries in this new Wild West world where these images are going to come out.

It's not going to stop, but at a certain point, the information might be so socially relevant that at a certain point it doesn't matter if I do it, so I might as well just do it. I think it's a very complicated world if you're running an internet journalism website or if you're running a television station.

Speaking of complicated worlds, you're a creative person in a creative industry. You're a filmmaker, and Sony Pictures, rightly or wrongly, has canceled the release of "The Interview." As a creative person, what does that decision mean to you?

As somebody who creates stories, the outcome is tragic. I think we've all given this a tremendous amount of thought, and it is a very complex problem that's being faced by Sony. It goes beyond the threat of more hacked e-mails coming out, but there's no question in my mind that this is a wake-up call in order to rectify a very complicated situation in the hopes that it doesn't happen again. I think we all fear that it will happen again.

Well, the President of the United States said that Sony's decision was "a mistake." Do you agree?

It's a mistake in the sense of how sad it is that we've come to a place that we're being censored because of an act of terrorism. It's a mistake in that way, but I certainly cannot point the finger at anybody who was in power and had to make this decision and say to them, "Well, you made a mistake."

It's very easy for me to say that. I don't know. I'm impressed with how complicated an issue this is in its resolution; I think it's not hard to get your head around the idea about the outcome. The outcome is wrong. The outcome is wrong, and how we got here and how we get out of it is going to require a lot of thought.

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