On a recent podcast, I listened to two filmmakers (both are screenwriters and directors of some excellent films) discuss their craft. The most interesting topic that they touched on was that of motivation. They compared movies like Marvel’s “Avengers” with Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas” or classic films like “Apocalypse Now”. Scorcese had given a recent interview where he stated his belief that the superhero movies of recent years do not qualify as “cinema”.The consensus of these two industry pros (as well as Scorcese himself in a later New York Times piece) was that the films are clearly the products of a great deal of creativity, artistry and talent. Whether or not they fit one’s individual sense of what “cinema” is, was irrelevant.
They went on to discuss the main motivations that a filmmaker can embrace when making a new movie.
Do it for the Box Office - How many tickets will your movie sell? This is the easiest one to quantify. At the end of a certain period of time (opening night, opening weekend, the first run in theaters...) just count up the money and you know how successful you were.
Do it for the Awards/Recognition - Will the Academy find the final film worthy of an Emmy? In this instance, the number of awards you receive can be your measure of success. The problem here is that not all awards are created equal. How many People’s Choice awards are the equivalent of an Academy Award? In which categories were you nominated/did you win?
Do it for the Fans - How many people come up to you on the street and say “I love your movie. I’ve seen it five times!” Did anyone say twenty? How many years later?
Do it for the Story - This is perhaps the hardest to measure. You had a story to tell and/or an experience you wanted to create for the viewer. How close to your purest vision was the end product? Do you feel that you honored your chosen craft?
The participants in the podcast agreed that no motivation was any better or worse than any other. They had both confessed of taking on several different projects for many varied reasons. Any of them can be done well or done poorly. The trick was understanding at the outset, against which measurement you would like to succeed.
You can take different jobs for different reasons. I know I did. I had no passion for my early years doing corporate accounting tasks for a Fortune 500 Company, but I had student loans and needed the money. It wasn’t until many years later that I found myself in a place where I no longer felt the need to “win” by earning the recognition of employers, coworkers, or industry competitors. Now I more often find myself working to honor my craft and create solutions that turn clients into fans.
This question of motivation (and defining success) is one that is worth asking ourselves from time to time. Don’t be surprised if, like me, you find your motivations changed from job to job. For some people, their motivation may change from project to project or customer to customer.
Now pause to consider the motivations of those around you. In my industry, there are unfortunately several people who are in it for the money. Everyone has a right to earn an honest living, but it does not serve the public when the paycheck becomes the measure of success. Many financial professionals spend years simply building monuments to their own self importance. While it may bring some satisfaction to feel important, it is a disservice to our clients when they alone are not clearly the most important person in the room.
You’ve seen the difference. You’ve gotten a haircut from someone who considered their work to be an expression of their passion and dedication. You may have received a cappuccino from a barista whose efforts transcended food service and entered into the realm of art. From massage therapists to car detailers, there are people everywhere who are clearly motivated by a deeper internal drive to be excellent.
My (admittedly biased) recommendation is to work with people who care about elevating their profession through excelling at their craft. Find the ones who work to make you want to come back again and again, because they cared more about the fans than the box office.
Who have you seen lately that honors their craft?