It warms my heart to hear it said out loud.
I have finally begun reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning. It has been recommended to me for years and I’m just now catching up to those recommendations (my therapist was the most recent and final impetus). Good thing I did, too. I hadn’t even gotten through the Preface when I was presented with a quote I will remember and attempt to incorporate into my life:
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
And while we’re quoting Coppola today…
“You have to really be courageous about your instincts and your ideas. Otherwise you’ll just knuckle under, and things that might have been memorable will be lost.” –Francis Ford Coppola
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ― Martha Graham
I found this quote on Allison Iris’s web site showcasing her incredible abstract paintings. The quote resonated for me. Enough so that I wanted to repost it here. Martha Graham’s observation embodies my approach to filmmaking, one that has taken me many years and many trials and tribulations to begin to understand. It is why I am now wholly committed to making “my” films, the way I want to make them, and not playing by anybody else’s rules. This is not to be stubborn or to be a rebel, but to honor myself and what it is I want to say and what the experience is I want to impart. Accepted or rejected, it will be the truest sense of who I am. This has always been the goal for me. However, I am only now coming to understand its great importance to me and the sacrifices that attaining such a goal entails.
Unique expression –and the undisguised vulnerability that inevitably comes with it– is one of the main things I focus on in my Acting Workshops. Each actor –each artist– has the ability to create and express something wholly personal, something no one else ever could in quite the same way. It is what separates us from all others in the audition room. This form of expression is our most personal gift and –though it sometimes requires as much un-learning as it does learning– our greatest strengths rise to the surface when we embrace it.
“…if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
From Robert Hilburn’s terrific book CORNFLAKES WITH JOHN LENNON: AND OTHER TALES FROM A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LIFE:
“The mistake a lot of musicians make, is they imagine an audience and then try and make a piece of music to fit it. “They get caught up in the race, and it can be dangerous to your creativity, and probably your sanity. What you have to do is start with a piece of music and then search out the audience for it, and if this is the audience for the new album, that’s fine. That’s where I should be right now.”
Of course, this quote applies to all artistic fields. While prepping my film THE PLAGUE, it was agreed and understood that we were making a film that did not fit snugly into any one genre and therefore it would be best to do the festival circuit in search of the film’s audience instead of seeking out a domestic distributor with a marketing department that had pre-conceived notions of what the film’s audience should be. Unfortunately for us, and the film, the powers-that-be, despite having verbally agreed to not seek out a domestic distributor until after a festival run, sold the distribution rights to Sony Screen Gems before we ever shot a frame.
The film was then taken over by the producers and marketing department in post-production and re-cut from scratch in an attempt to appeal to Clive Barker’s horror audience, an audience the film, in any incarnation, would never have appealed to. As a result, the film was both a commercial and artistic failure.
It was living through this experience, and in understanding that it is a common experience, that allowed me to complete my cut of the film despite warnings by my lawyers and agent at the time. It was and is the best thing I’ve ever done. Even though very few have seen my version. An artistic work, be it great or small, needs to be completed. If only for the artist him/herself. And there will always be an audience. Especially if one trusts the work.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“I heard someone from the music business saying they are no longer looking for talent, they want people with a certain look and a willingness to cooperate. I thought, that’s interesting, because I believe a total unwillingness to cooperate is what is necessary to be an artist — not for perverse reasons, but to protect your vision. The considerations of a corporation, especially now, have nothing to do with art or music. That’s why I spend my time now painting.”
From Robert Hillburn’s 2004 article on Joni Mitchell, AN ART BORN OF PAIN, AN ARTIST IN HAPPY EXILE.
Luckily for us, Mitchell did return to music. On her own terms.
The film industry is no different. In 2006, I was informed by a film exec at Fox that I would be termed “difficult” if I expressed my opinions. The exec then went on to tell me how and why they chose the current director for their new multi-million dollar comic-book action film:
“He doesn’t have any opinions of his own. Or if he does, he keeps them to himself. He does exactly what we tell him.”
One of my current favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, recently wrote this about his experience as a writer:
As I suspect is true of many who write for a living, as I write I think about all sorts of things. I don’t necessarily write down what I am thinking; it’s just that as I write, I think about things. As I write, I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my mind down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination. Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true. All I do is present a few hypotheses, or paraphrase the issue. Or find an analogy between the structure of the problem, and something else.