Make a Habit of Accomplishment: Do It When You Don't Want To Do It / by Samuel B. Prime


It occurred to me the other day in the middle of a lunch meeting that in FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT REVISITED (Adam Yauch, 2011), Stanley Tucci's character "Father" looks exactly like Jean-Luc Godard. Upon returning to my laptop, I put the two images together and felt the resemblance quite uncanny. I've always semi-seriously referred to Godard as "Papa" in the sense that he - like Hemingway - is difficult to know except through his works and quotations. There is a distance between Godard and, well, just about everything else -- a father to many (films), a whole movement that redefined modern cinema, but in the end an absent, reclusive parent. 

What does this mean? Nothing, or not much. Why is it worth sharing? It might not be, except that in the thought - and the idea's execution, trivial though it may be - I unearth genuine amusement. For myself and (I hope) for others. I think it important to chase down these thoughts, to bring even the smallest thoughticles to completion, in part to make a habit of accomplishment, be it a passing notion or a revolutionary inspiration. The Tucci / Godard example is a bit silly and hopefully results in some minor delight, but I think the overall point is clear.  

Some of the best advice that I ever received was in college, from someone three or four years my senior and whom I very much respected (or, maybe, idolized). He looked how I wanted to look, he was hilarious and outgoing in ways that I hadn't found within myself, and I considered him a kind of mentor. Although I doubt he would admit it, I think that the mentor designation was an annoyance. After some particularly spirited evenings, and the discovery (on his part) that I did neither drink nor smoke, he sent me a few long e-mails that basically chastised me and asked me to, contradictorily, wise up and let loose. He offered: "Do those things that scare you." I've long since lost his e-mails, but this sentiment has stuck with me. Within reason, of course. I don't intend to climb into the mouth of a shark anytime soon, although the proposition obviously scares me. I have personally worked to clarify and refine the meaning of that simple phrase over the years. It has taken many shapes and, in the latest, connects with that lovely concept that originates in Keats' letters: negative capability. According to Keats, negative capability is "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason." Life lived forward into uncertainty and championing beauty above all else. I think this attitude is given to its own emblem of success that is also tied closely to happiness. 

How this relates to cinema is that for filmmakers (or any storyteller/visualist, really) to create sumptuous, meaningful works, there has to be some element of risk - something that scares and that worries less about reason than that resonant feeling in your gut that tells you something is working. I firmly believe that anything interesting in this world is by its very nature inherently provocative and that nothing at all is worth doing unless there is some element of risk involved. Men and women in suits worry about marketing to demographics and quadrants, and while that element of the business - and filmmaking has been and will always be a business as much as it is an art form - has its place, it will not work unless the filmmaker is (in their own way) marketing to the heart. OK, that sounds corny, but I believe that it is true. The difference between success and failure (not restricted to financial terms) is that those who achieve their goals work towards them even when they don't want to do it. They make a habit of it. And they do it with sincerity. Their presence in the physical making defines it as theirs, as much as that the original idea is born internally. They eschew laziness in any form in favor of what it means to fight against any natural notion to retreat. I'm not saying that I am what most people define as success (insofar as I am not a famous person), but I am able to wake up every day, do what I love, and bring people together to make good things happen. That alone makes me happy. And I choose to make it a habit without necessarily knowing who or what is over the next horizon makes the risk all the more beautiful. 

Samuel B. Prime

Founder, LA Ciné Salon