Fear’s a funny thing. I mean, here’s an evolutionary survival tool that we, in the comfort of our modern, civilized world, now play with like an old tin toy, passed down from our ancestors. We don’t get the day-to-day jolts that generations past did, so we supplement our fear like vitamins, in thrill rides, adventure vacations and yes, horror films.
I talk about that kind of fear all the time, hell, it’s how I make my living. But today I need to rant a little bit. Don’t worry, there’s some sugar with the medicine, but mostly I want to bitch about the worst kind of fear there is. The unhealthy, unfun kind. The kind that dominates all too many lives.
In Hollywood for the past decade and a half, I’ve noticed there are generally two kinds of people in the entertainment industry. The Fearful, and the Hopeful. Two VERY divergent schools of thought, one driven primarily by fear and the other by hope. Allow me to illustrate.
Most creators I know are hopeful altruists, whether they think they are, or not. Who the hell else would set out to the marketplace with works/skills that have no “practical” value. And the goal? Quite often it’s just to amuse, entertain or enlighten. Actors, Writers and Directors fall into this category, as do costumers, make up artists, production designers etc.
I call this group hopeful because hope is the engine that generates their every professional action. They hope to create something worthwhile, they hope the world understands what they’re saying, they hope they can communicate their point, they hope to amaze, amuse, entertain and enlighten. On a more pragmatic level, they spend their time hoping the next job comes in, the rent can be paid, their portfolio/reel is good enough...
They live and breath based on hope. And hope is a positive, optimistic perspective. This group is responsible for great storytelling, unbelievable visuals, and building worlds for the rest of humanity to go enjoy. Their hope manifests in the ultimate success - creation. And even if the creation isn’t very good, it’s still creation and not destruction, and the basic fuel is hope, and not fear.
The other group, the Fearful, are generally people who are driven almost entirely by fear. All of us have fearful parts of ourselves, but I’m talking about people who thrive on fear. You know who they are. They’re fearful of their boss, fearful of their peers, fearful they’ll get fired, demoted, discovered for being a total charlatan... they’re fearful of looking foolish, they’re fearful of what others will think, how they’ll be perceived, they’re fearful of not looking wealthy enough, pretty enough, smart enough, being educated enough.
And this fear dominates every component of their thinking. A lot of the time , they don’t know how to create, so they’re fearful of creatives, and worst of all, they often publicly look upon Hopeful thinkers as foolish, idealistic dreamers who are easy to cash in on.
In creative meetings, the Fearful will say things like “stick to the formulas”, and “copy the templates” because quite frankly, they don’t know what else to say. When a Hopeful pitches something different, something striking, something against the flow of the herd, the Fearful try to snuff it out, either with derision or forced casual dismissal. It’s harder to say yes to something than no. If you say no to something, you can keep your job, not risk anything, maintain the status quo and your spending account and company car. But if you say yes, then you’re putting your neck on the line. You’re saying that you believe in something, and as a Fearful, that’s the MOST terrifying because you’re ACTUALLY EXPRESSING HOPE... WTF were you thinking?
The Fearful will say things like, “It takes a Chris Nolan or a Peter Jackson to do that. “What the fuck does that even mean?” Once upon a time, Chris Nolan was just some guy with a script he’d written backwards who was being laughed out of every studio for being too strange. I remember, I was there with him. Now the Fearful do what they are second best at -- being sycophantic. Once a member of the Hopeful shows success... shows a profit, is accepted by the majority... THEN the Fearful’s rally around as if they were there the whole time... when they most definitely were not. Why? Because they’re Fearful of NOT supporting something popular.
So here we are, an industry of Hopefuls and Fearfuls, all in one city, in one business, gravitating heavily to our ideals, be they hope or fear. And most of the time, this town churns out crap, because sadly, more often than not, Fear trumps Hope. But every once in a while, a visionary Hopeful pushes his or her way through the quagmire and creates something worthwhile.
And while not every Hopeful is capable of masterworks, (as a matter of fact they mostly create pablum) they are to be lauded nonetheless, because they carry the one fire inside them that drives the greatest of all human endeavors. Hope. And they do it in the face of the majority, who live on Fear.
Unfortunately for all of us, this is pretty much a human condition and not new to our industry or time or geography, so things don’t look like they’re ever going to change...
...but I’m hopeful.
Gaudium Per Atrox.