Oh, Oh, Oh, It's Magic

Kids happily accept magic as truth. They play games, change rules, imagine all kinds of fantastic adventures, and don’t bother to ask themselves, “Is this realistic? Do we really believe in this world/adventure?” By the way, if reading aloud, that should be stated as world-slash-adventure.

I remember playing cops and robbers as a kid. My mom pulled out an old favorite for parents: “Act your age!” Okay, I was thirteen, but still! I was having fun. Who cares if it was appropriate! In my head, it didn’t matter what other people thought of me. I wanted the adventure. I fought my whole life to cling to some sort of child-like sense of play. In college, I spent more time planning “festive shirt” parties and calculating the best drink specials (per ounce), then I did calculating the power output of a circuit. Even when I worked at Andersen Consulting, I often found myself goofing around too much in the weekly status meetings, leaving my managers with shaking heads. And then when my wife supported my dream to go back to school, I chose to work for a restaurant, dressing up in nun outfits and fairy costumes to pass out coupons on Michigan Avenue. Give me an inch, and I take a picnic.

As a forever child, I believe magic happens all the time. Sure, some call it luck. Some call it divine intervention. Some prefer to call it a fabricated story. Was it magic when the rain stopped in time for my production last May, and then started again the moment we wrapped? Was it magic when I met my wife at the most hopeless low point in my life? Was it magic when the barista offered me a free drink that they made by accident? I could call it coincidence, that is, if I wanted to be a grownup. I know you are, but what am I?!

Today, The Landmark hosted the PGA breakfast, which brings the PGA-nominated best picture producers together for a discussion. I love the added bonuses of my job, like hearing from the heavy-hitters in the filmmaking world. Always entertaining, (the infamous Scott Rudin managed to be charming and vindictive at the same time), the producers tell stories of their journey to get their films made. It’s interesting how the most acclaimed films always seem to include stories of doors shut in their faces, hurdles of financing, and years of pushing the boulder-like film project up the hill. No one seems to want to take a risk on these unique stories at first. But, the producer, through pure hard work and determination, as well as a little bit of magic, always gets the picture made. These producers fuel themselves with optimism, hope and passion, not the cynicism that you would expect from a Hollywood producer. I’m sure cynical producers exist, but they most likely are not making meaningful award-worthy films.

Of course, that passion and optimism cannot be tallied on a spreadsheet, or quantified for the business plan. But, when you hear these producers speak about their projects, evidence of those feelings resonates in their subtext – still a critical component in the “magic” of filmmaking.

Yesterday, I finished the first rough draft of a feature screenplay. It’s not anywhere near good. I’m not saying that to be self-critical. It’s just the first step in a long writing/ re-writing process. It’s not really a story at this point, but a collection of events and conversations attempting to feel out the relationships and character journey of the story. I’m learning that I have to just let my brain regurgitate thoughts and ideas – and some of the same thoughts seem to be repeated over and over – until they transform into something meaningful and coherent. Just yesterday, I was convinced that I can’t possibly know what I’m doing. I’m an imposter. Then today, I hear a story from the producer of my top movie of 2010: TOY STORY 3. Apparently, at one point, even that story sucked. So, through the “luck” of my job, I hear just what I need to hear, when I need to hear it. The inspiration restores my faith in the creative process, and my passion takes back over the responsibility of fueling my engine. In order to make magic, you have to believe in magic. And, if anyone knows magic, it would be Pixar and the TOY STORY 3 team.

So, yes, I choose to believe in magic. It makes coincidences much more entertaining, and a hell of a lot more useful. Magic is the source and result of the creative process. Magic paves the way for dreams, and vice versa – a perpetual motion machine, with a byproduct of sunshine and lollypops.

Never believe it’s not so.