“THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH” writer-director, Rawson Marshall Thurber
My father is a businessman. An entrepreneur, really, and he’s spent the majority of his working life consulting other companies — advising them how to improve their bottom line, become more efficient, more profitable. In short, how to produce less “waste” — the unnecessary, the unneeded — in their work worlds.
I guess I’ve always been my father’s son, so if I could’ve had 10 percent more of anything during the making of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, it wouldn’t have been 10 percent more of anything, it would’ve been 10 percent less of something. Ten percent less waste: less wasted time (which, of course, is wasted money). Ten percent less wrong decisions. Ten percent less snafu.
I remember once hearing the story of the Sony executives who, in the ’80s, flew into Hollywood to see about purchasing Columbia Pictures. During the discussions with their American counterparts, the head Hollywood executive explained to the Japanese contingent that the studio made roughly 20 pictures a year, 15 of which failed. The other five were the big hits that would pay for the 15 failures and then some. After hearing this, the Japanese executive paused and then asked simply, “Why do you make the 15 failures?”
Of course art isn’t about efficiency. It’s about discovery and beauty, and it’s hard to discover something if you never get lost in the first place. I’m not rubbing my Genie lamp wishing I’d had 10 percent less waste in the hopes that it would’ve made the, at times, chaotic nature of filmmaking more efficient. I just think a little less waste — even 10 percent less — would’ve allowed more time to get lost in the good stuff: taking chances in the right area. Going for that extra shot. Giving your actor one more take to see what he comes up with. Getting one more at bat. One more chance to hold your breath and swing for the fences. Ten percent less would give the process so much more.
[PREMIERE SCREENING: Sunday, Jan. 20, 5:30 pm — Racquet Club, Park City]