I met a doctor the other day who told me that the movie industry sounds like “tough business.” I told him, “Thank G-d, I didn’t get into it for that.”
I’m totally cool with the business aspect of film. I realize it’s a rat race. I also realize that it’s a closed-circuit society—as much as the banking industry, the medical industry, the science industry and the fine art and music industry are closed societies. I am not trying to break into that society. I can’t break into something I already am. So I don’t even try.
While I was making NUNE, I had to go pick up some daylight bulbs at the Paramount studios. The bulbs were given to me as a courtesy. The guy that ran the shop gave me a tour of the lighting department. And while I walked up the wooden narrow rickety stairs to the 2nd floor, I realized that I was walking back in time: through a piece of history. This place was old.
They had a very small room with about 200 square feet of expendables. I looked around and saw a shelf with gaff tape, china markers and sharpies; the usual. That was when I realized that my world and their world aren’t that separate. We all use the same tools, we just use them differently.
Occasionally, I’d meet people who are already entrenched in the industry telling me they are trying to “break into” the industry. I mentally do a double take. It’s a waste of energy. It’s like a prisoner trying to break into a prison cell as opposed to a prisoner breaking out of it. People who spend years breaking into industries end up demoralized and people who have broken in subject themselves to petrification.
For me, when your name ends up on the sidewalk of the Hollywood Stars for all the bums to piss on and tourists to step on, that’s like getting a coffee mug from working at a department store for, “Best Employee of the Year.” I’m not saying this to be arrogant. But that is the reality of how sadly entrenched we are in reaching outwardly for something that doesn’t exist. I want to separate myself from the crowd of exclusivity and the crowd that chases it. Both are chasing an illusion.
I understand now why the Jews don’t believe in burial. I don’t ever want to be cemented. Such a goal is unworthy. I’d much rather die going toward the stars in the sky than stepped on, on a sidewalk where generations from now you’d be unknown and forgotten.
Everyone knows what truth is. They pretend they don’t, but they do. They can watch an obscure movie and be riveted to the core—knowing it is ten times better than anything they’ve ever seen. Yet they’ll be fooled by the lore of box office hits and advertising telling them that something ten times lazier is better.
Film festivals do it as well. They need to open and close their event with some big named movie or director while everything else in-between may be better. It’s business, and I get that. But I do believe that the cream always rises to the top—even if people ignore it.
You have to listen to your soul. In life, people find true love but turn a blind eye to it because they owe allegiance to a sex, a tribe, a family, a club, a religion or inheritance. So whenever people avoid truly falling in love—they stumble through life.
So I have made it a goal to always be in love.
When I told the doctor I met that I never tried to compete in this business, it doesn’t mean that I don’t compete. It just means that my goals are different:
When I write a story, when I long to write, I have only one need and that need is to be close to something holy. It’s my source of energy and soul food and is the only thing that makes life worth living and dreams worth pursuing. And when I’m touched by that experience, I have an obligation to it. Because it is a gift—it can’t be kept to myself—but has to be expressed and given to others.
When I consider how hard the business of filmmaking is, I don’t focus on the difficulty. The reason is because when that holy feeling is matched against the obstacles—the obstacles are subjugated and made small before it. And even if it is just a feeling and not a tangible reality—it is persists as a larger reality.
This is why the writing time is so important: it’s an art of enlarging one’s personal inner reality—so that the outer world—its noise, its lies and its ideals aren’t shrouding yours. When the writing stops—so does life.
When I turn the story into a reality (movie), it helps pull back the curtain from society—and allows them to see.
We are all competing for the same thing. Some of us want to pull blinders over our eyes and subjugate us, and some of us want to pull the blinders off to free us. Then there are people who try to “beat the system” and they end up demoralized and generally lose. I am simply competing for space. And it is this space that gives an artist, a film or even an entire genre its originality.