In my previous blog, I mentioned the danger of success stories. I believe they can, at times, be dangerous rather than motivational because we always know the outcome. We don’t like to focus on failure, but understanding its role in creativity is just as important.
So with that in mind, let’s focus on a movie that was a disaster. Arguably the biggest disaster movie of all time.
This movie involved water. A lot of water.
Thousands of gallons of water built in the middle of a massive set. Aside from giving Mother Nature a starring role (and she was a true diva, causing a host of problems) this movie was plagued with production delays and a budget rising to enormous heights. People “in the know” predicted its doom. An assistant director told the L.A. Times “Yeah, the horror stories are true.”
Later, the director himself stated that for six months he “labored on” in the belief that “the studio would lose $100 million. It was certain.”
The reception to the movie’s release in Tokyo was described by the New York Times as “muted” and “tepid”.
Many people wondered how anyone—the studio heads, the director—could have let this monumental disaster happen.
There were no answers. It did happen and it was…well…
You know the film. No, it wasn’t Waterworld, which cost nearly as much money, it was Titanic.
Yes, a movie that was three hours long, late to release, featuring two strong actors who were basically unknown to the mainstream at the time, was a blockbuster. How could this movie do better than Waterworld, a film that was released on time, just a little over two hours long featuring a known star like Kevin Costner?
I know I tricked you a little (okay a lot) by mentioning I was going to focus on failure and a movie that was a disaster, but I intentionally did so to make a point.
The truth is, there was nothing wrong with the predictions made about Titanic. It could have bombed. It was released only two years after Waterworld. And the similarities between the troubles facing both productions were amazing. You can find out more in Megan McArdle’s fascinating book The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success, Chapter Three “The Experimenters”.
Waterworld failed while Titanic didn’t.
Failure happens and we can’t always spot why, even in hindsight. The director of Titanic, James Cameron’s other water film The Abyss was so bad that the lead actor, Ed Harris, doesn’t even want to discuss it.
Renown director Steven Spielberg did a film called 1941. Ever heard of it? Let alone watched it?
Success and failure…we like to pretend we can be assured when they will happen, but that’s not always true. In the book I mentioned earlier, McArdle has a subheading in the same chapter that speaks for itself “Past Performance is no Guarantee of Future Results”.
That’s why no one can rest on one’s laurels. You keep doing and learning and, yes, experimenting. Some experiments will be bombs but some may be brilliant…you just won’t know which.
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“Water, water everywhere” © 2016 Dara Girard; Image copyright at top of post © 2016 by Zacarias Pereira Da Mata/ 123rf