Geniuses Work More than Others
As I was reading about Stanley Kubrick‘s obsessiveness and control over his work, it struck me that for a genius, he worked a whole lot more than your regular Joe.
The genius’ myth -that one person with an extra-talent- comes with the preconception that this extra dose of talent makes it easier for them to do the work which goes, consequently, faster.
There was absolutely nothing easy and fast in Kubrick’s approach to filmmaking.
While I do believe -based on everything I’ve read, heard and watched so far- that Kubrick had an instinct geared toward filmmaking that gave him an upper hand, he took more risks and worked harder than most will ever agree to. And that’s what allowed his body of work to become unique, hard to forget and hard to replicate.
A telling anecdote would be the time Kubrick spent scouting the right locations for Barry Lyndon:
In 1975, Kubrick produced Barry Lyndon, a film which, although not often heralded in the same way 2001: A Space Odyssey is, typifies his obsession with hairline details. A British-American period drama, Barry Lyndon is based on the 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray. It tells the story of an Irishman who marries a rich widow to climb the social ladder and assume her late husband’s aristocratic position.
In order to find the perfect locations, Kubrick, his daughter Katharina and production designer Ken Adam’s team spent six months location scouting and arranging shoots in castles in Germany, Ireland and much of England. This was a direct result of Kubrick’s insistence that the film only be shot in real castles.
How Much to Become a Genius?
We currently live in a time where a lot of people are attracted by the price but neither aware nor willing to do the work to get the price.
Filmmaking feels like the perfect mirror for that: it’s a long and arduous process that can, sometimes, lead to extraordinary success and glamour. More often than not though, it’s just a lot of hard work rarely seen and quickly forgotten. (I know how depressing this sentence sound but it would be a lie to pretend otherwise)
A lot of despair is currently bubbling up in the filmmaking world as the honey-moon between the idea that everyone can make a film so go make one and the illusion that making a film is all it takes is coming to an end.
Making a film is half of the battle. The other half is finding how to distribute your film and at this stage I’m not even talking about money. I’m talking about getting people to see it, which, in 2019 has become a real challenge.
Getting people to watch your film (whatever length, mind you) is a full time job that asks precisely for relentless obsessiveness. It asks the producer and the filmmaker (if they are two separate entities) to have a vision that develops before the making of the film.
To understand this mindset, I can only recommend the video interview with Megan Gilbride.
Wanting to Is Not Doing the Work
Rebecca Green, the producer and force behind the site Dear Producer recalls how shocked and heart-broken she was to discover that one of her mentee did not take the time to properly read her monthly digest about what had been going on in the business:
I’m always shocked at the lack of knowledge producers have about the business when information is available via the world wide web every single day.
When I graduated college and started my first job in 2001, Facebook and Twitter and Variety online didn’t exist. If you didn’t work at a company that could afford the expensive Variety print subscription, you had to go read it at a newsstand. To stay in-the-know, every Sunday I got together with a group of other assistants for brunch to talk shop because that was how information was shared.
But today? Now you can wake up in the morning, lay in bed, and learn all you need to know about the industry before you show up at the office.
Talent Will Only Get You so Far
This is something I’ve been grappling with myself in the last year, working with people who admitted lacking knowledge on topics essential to their growth and yet did absolutely nothing to change that.
Green’s words hit a chord:
I’ll ask you this, how do you plan to survive, let along succeed, if you are not educating yourself on the business? Talent will only get you so far. (…)
Indie filmmakers are quick to complain about how they are underpaid and how their films don’t turn a profit, but too many of those complaining aren’t studying the business and coming up with innovative ways to work around the archaic systems in place that are stifling diverse storytelling.
Too many are instead making their art and then waiting for Media’s Most Powerful Executives to control their destiny. Your career is in your own hands. Education is power.
I wasn’t planning to connect Stanley Kubrick to Rebecca Green when I started this post, but here we are.
The point to me: everything is a choice, every choice has a consequence.
If being obsessive sounds romantic to you, remember that behind that words hide sacrifices (mostly for others to adapt to you) and a whole lot of work. Kubrick might have been a “genius” in the sense that working obsessively on a film did not cost him and came as a pleasuring activity to him.
For the non-genius, we need to face that producing a unique and viable film requires working twice as hard every day. If we don’t, let’s not wonder why things don’t turn out the way we want.
Education is power. Education is work.