I was invited to speak in Amos Poe’s “Media & Mavericks’ NYU Film School Undergrad class last month. Salman Rushdie and Abel Ferrara spoke before me. Patti Smith was set to follow (so does that mean I’ve opened for Patti?). How could I say no to Amos? Particularly when it was in such illustrious company? His offer to speak got me thinking about what have been the underlying philosophies that have helped me enjoy a prolific life in a capital intensive mass market art form. I entered the film world with the belief that I would be denied access to my lack of connections, class, and rarefied tastes & desires. These “philosophies” that I found, be they mantras, or just helpful reminders, have driven me through the decades and continue to fuel my fire. I hope they help to inspire more good work of yours and want to hear what additions you have to this list.
To understand the underlying principals that guide me though, requires the proper context. Producing is a much different pursuit than pure artistic creation; producers bridge art and business. We facilitate many voices. Our work is as much about helping the work connect with others, as it is about getting it made, or made well. What we create, enables others to create — or just the opposite: our failures make it harder for the next to step ahead.
Producing remains a difficult pursuit to both get started in and to sustain — particularly producing independent films, or truly free films. The mantras I tell myself have done a great deal to both get me started and to maintain. The forces that are out there that are motivated to discourage you or corrupt you are quite powerful. The bad often gets more attention than the good; it certainly makes more noise. How do we fortify ourselves to sustain in face of the negativity?
In an industry populated (thankfully, not exclusively mind you!) by narcissistic, deceitful, misanthropic, malcontents, that rewards repetition and encourages defensive action, how do you maintain a commitment to diverse and ambitious work of all forms?
1. Know that what you have to say matters. Make sure you communicate it.
2. Remember that the world can be better and work to take it there.
3. Don’t ask or wait for permission.
4. Creativity is the essence of life — so create.
5. What people want most is to connect and to relate (and having fun and learning rate pretty high too).
6. Don’t wait for others to lead, succeed, or even try. Leap forward and over.
7. Subscribe to authenticity, and emotional & political truth.
8. Believe in the wisdom of others, and listen to them.
9. The outside has a clearer vision of what is really inside than those in the center; those on the periphery are the ones who really know what is going on.
10. Focus on the reality of the present. Power lives in the past and can’t see the moment you are living in.
11. Question Power’s authority. The Status Quo is always the most conservative.
12. There is no security to be had — there’s no reason to strive for what doesn’t exist.
13. Action is always a good alternative; stop waiting. Let impatience be a virtue.
14. Never be ashamed of your passion. Let your exuberance show.
15. Learn and take, but don’t climb. The ladder leads to the plantation.
16. Will to fail. Don’t deliver proofs but strive to be the eternal student/amateur. Don’t settle for your work to be a proof of what you know, but make it a proof of your desire to know more.
17. Embrace your limitations.
18. To hell with your limitations!
19. Don’t worry what others think (about you, your work, the way you look, act, speak, write, etc.)
20. It can never be about the money.
21. Lend a hand; it’s not just about your work.
22. Get it done and move on. Next!
23. There’s a much bigger world than just what you do. That’s what really matters.
24. Pet the sweaty; don’t sweat the petty.
25. Power comes to those that work.
26. Don’t ever expect to get it all done; there’s just too much to do – and that’s a good thing.
27. We are mayflies on the windshield of history.
28. Time is our most limited resource. Value it. And respect the time of others. Most of, don’t squander it. You are going to die soon.
29. Respect your & others’ labor; it is how we use time.
30. Respect the results of your labor; give them proper context.
31. Encourage choice (vs. impulse) even if that choice is not yours.
32. Process shapes more than intent does. How you do it needs more effort than what you want to do.
33. Enjoy, wonder, respect, revel, & rejoice.
34. You are obligated to and responsible for the world you live in.
35. Don’t let others’ bad ways effect your good behavior.
If I can have my every action reflect these beliefs, then everything is going to be okay.