Lessons of Vision from Hollywood
There is a surprising lack of vision in Hollywood sometimes. The irony is that movies are a visual medium, yet many creative types lack a deep understanding of vision. Many studio execs are excellent leaders. They have a keen eye for talent, a passion for the medium and a truly collaborative approach to filmmaking. Yet they can not see the vision within a script.
Hollywood, like many other industries is full of ego. Many leaders, such as studio execs, directors and actors have strong personal visions and seek to impose them on “their” projects. Personal vision is important. It is a moral compass that guides us on a daily basis. But too often it is ego that clouds this vision. And not just ego in the sense of an over-inflated opinion of one’s self.
Eckhart Tolle defines ego as any image you have of yourself that gives you a sense of identity. And this is very different than having a vision for one’s self. “I am a powerful and well connected studio executive”. “I am a talent and important actor”. “I am a strong,well respected director.” “I am an insightful and creative writer.”
In this sense, it is all the more important to leave ego at the door, especially in a creative environment like Hollywood. When approaching a writing project, like a screenplay, I try to put ego aside. The focus is not my personal vision of the script but the vision within the script itself. I write a crappy first draft, rewrite that draft into a film I would like to watch and then drop it in the center of the table. “You’re on your own kid.” I tell it. Then I send it out. I have taken my ego out of it. In fact, it has an ego of its own. It is filled with images that give it a sense of identity including a compelling premise, an ingenious hook, and living, breathing characters. And what holds it all together is a strong idea. It is this strong idea that is at the core of the story – what some call the “spine”. It is, in essence, the screenplay’s vision.
As a writer, I firmly believe that if you have a strong idea at the core of your screenplay and compelling characters to help you explore that idea, you will never lose the original vision.
Those that read your story will respond to that vision. They will either share it, or not. If they share that vision, any changes they suggest (and they will suggest changes) should only serve the “ego” of the script and not anyone’s personal ego. But the changes will only be to the ego – that is those elements that give the script its identity. You will make these changes willingly, because you seek only to serve the original vision of the screenplay. The original vision remains intact.
Whether you’re running a household, a multi-national corporation or a studio the same approach works. Creating a strong vision for the project itself and removing personal ego from the situation ensures you will always create the best result. You can work in a highly collaborative and creative mode, where no idea is dismissed and third alternatives grow naturally from a sense of serving the project. Those projects will then resonate with end users – consumers, clients or audiences, because people are responding to the project’s vision.
Everyone loves a good story. Especially when it seems to be unfolding by itself. I know I’m watching a good film when I forget I’m watching a film. That is, I am no longer conscious of the people making that film. I don’t notice the lighting, the framing of a shot, even the acting. I am not aware of the filmmakers’ egos. I am fully immersed in this world. I am completely engaged with the characters. I have bought into the story’s vision. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, damn is it good.