Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blog 6: About talent

A comedian once said this; "when did every child become gifted"? 

Talent is one of the most overused and least understood words in the world of art, be it painters, musicians, actors, writers and so on and so on. It is a word I use rarely and with conviction when it is warranted. To be honest, talent has been misapplied probably 90% of the time.  

Take me,  I'm a good writer, have a respectable reputation and can come up with some pretty great words.  But I'm not talented. I know people who are talented and I'm not like them.  Paul Newman said that he did not come to acting easy, that it took him a long time to figure out how to do it right. I agree with him, it took me a long time to learn how to write and I see myself as a craftsman, I learned the trade and can do it well enough that people appreciate it. You may not like my story, but you can't say my writing is bad. 

And I'm not being modest, I'm perfectly happy with my craftsman label, I'm still amazed people pay me to write words. Talented people are different, and they stand out from the very beginning. Look at your grade 1 class, that guy or girl in the corner who didn't look like everyone else, who wore odd clothes or who would draw a perfect face instead of a stickman, that's the one who's talented.  

Meryl Streep is talented, Sharon Stone is not,  both still work, one simply can't help but being brilliant every time out.  I watched Sharon Stone on that Actor's Studio show, and Sharon couldn't stop talking about how she plays her character. Ever see Meryl discuss acting? She has no idea how she does it, it's just there.  

The rest of us have to fight to get "there" and most of the time we don't make it. But sometimes we do get there, only for a moment, and the air is sweeter. 

I have known less than a handful of talented people in this business, my friend, Phil Borsos, and I made a short film COOPERAGE, which won awards all over the world and ended as finalist in 1976 Academy Awards.  The brilliance came from Phil, he would come up with shots I would never have dreamt of.  But I shot one great scene that we used under the credits, and it was perfect.  

Phil's first feature THE GREY FOX won 11 awards at Canada's version of the Oscars and Francis Coppola distributed it in the US to universal acclaim.  Talent is rare.  And those who are usually don't know they are nor do they care. And the danger of too much talent is the incapability of regular life. Look at Brando, Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix.

Where does that leave the rest of us? 

Consider this; a studio executive once told me "you need three things to succeed in Hollywood, talent, craft and discipline," and then he added, "and talent is the least important of those three."