Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.Robert McKee – Story
Emma and I watched a film last night. It was called – with more than a hint of irony – Unforgettable. It starred Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl. And it really did not need to be made.
It wasn’t a bad film – great acting, some nice panoramic views of southern California, costume and set designers who knew what they were doing – but it was without a doubt a pointless film. It followed an excruciatingly clear formula to its logical conclusion. It was a product, no different than a Big Mac or a Sharpie pen.
I do feel bad singling out Unforgettable though, because it’s really just one example of a mucher bigger issue that plagues every art-form, and in fact, every facet of society and culture:
Most people are shit-scared of taking a risk.
Most art, as Oscar Wilde reminded us in the preface to The Portrait of Dorian Gray, is quite useless. And this is why – the people making it are too timid. They search for a formula and when they find it they use it as a shield they can hide behind. Conservatism has become the most dangerous vice of the 21st century.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. The missing ingredient is courage. The courage to learn the timeless principles of what you are doing, and then the courage to bend and twist those principles into something you find uniquely beautiful. And remember, courage is not something bestowed by a deity. Courage is a muscle, and it gets stronger every time you exercise it.
Better to fail trying to make something courageously unique than succeed making something soulless.