Saturday, May 14, 2011


On my DVD copy of the film Patton there is a short intro by the man who wrote the screenplay for the film.

He tells us he was 26 or 27 when he did the screenplay. The studio liked it and didn't like it. They kept it to make use of but they fired him because they thought it was too weird.

A few years later he was working on the set of The Godfather and his film crew happened to cross paths with another film crew. The man asked the other crew what they were working on and they told him, "Patton."

"Really," he responded in surprise. "Whose script are you using?"

"Some guy named . . . " and they used his name.

"Hey, that's me!" he told them.

Patton, based on this man's script, came out shortly afterward. It went on to win several Academy awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and . . . Best Screenplay. This man found himself in a tux on Oscar night clutching a small gold statue, much to his surprise and delight.

It couldn't have come at a more opportune time. The studio producing The Godfather was thinking of firing this man from their set due to his unusual (read "creative") ideas. However once he became an Academy award winner that changed everything and all talk of firing him went out the window. He stayed with The Godfather which eventually won several Academy awards of its own. The man's name was Francis Ford Coppola and he went on to make such films as The Black Stallion, American Graffiti, Lionheart, Apocalypse Now and The Godfather Part II.

He comments on how the things the studio thought were so weird about his screenplay have now become some of the most iconic images of the film, the scenes that are most remembered and praised. So he tells us, "Look, don't be discouraged when people don't understand or appreciate some of your deepest and most creative ideas. Stick to it. Don't lose your vision. The day will come when you will be understood. And maybe even rewarded."

This is something I'm sharing for all you writers out there who want to be published. It's something I'm sharing for all of you who are artists in any way, shape or form and who want to be understood. I'm thinking of pastors, church leaders, youth leaders, public servants, street lawyers, teachers, professors, psychologists. I'm thinking of everyone.

Don't give up on your deepest and truest ideas. Don't surrender your originality. Don't toss away your different angle, your unique perspective, your unusual way of approaching an issue, a problem, a mystery. Don't bury a special way of talking about God and prayer and faith. If you have something important to say, stick with it. The day will come, Lord willing, when what you have to say will be heard, when what you have to show the world will be seen. Don't lose heart. Continue to be your distinct identity in Christ and the day of vindication will come.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

(Psalm 37)


Peter Smith said...

Thanks for this piece, Murray; a good pot shot at the many of us who have spent years within some system which required stereotyped productions. 'Tis true that "the fear of man brings a snare," and it's a shame how bound we become by such fear. It's also shameful to admit the many times I've let good ideas go because I knew they would, most probably, not be accepted. Gutless, eh?

murray said...

Shalom, Peter - don't be too hard on yourself. We all have times when we weigh the options and possibilities and then settle for a little less of what we envision rather than risk losing the whole opportunity. The Christian world is just as resistant to new ideas as the world around us, if not more so. We survive by doing some of the things the people in authority will open the doors to. I think the trick is to also work at other projects regardless of whether they are acceptable or not. Involve yourself in both approaches.

Recently I wanted to talk about Amish pacifism in story form. To make that work I needed a war setting or something close to it. But the powers that be said no to any possibility of a war setting, even as a foil, it wouldn't sell. So I didn't care because I was doing the story as a sort of game anyway, to see if I could pull off a decent story with that plot idea, and I did it anyway. A year later a publisher picked it up, much to my shock. I then wrote another book about conscientious objectors and World War One which wasn't supposed to sell. It got scooped up in six weeks by a publisher and is being released in January 2012.

So with one hand do the norm, if you must, but with the other push the boundaries and - who knows?