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."


  1. This won't come as any surprise to you, Jim, but I have to disagree with you about talent and especially about the acting talent and or styles of Sharon Stone and Meryl Streep so I suppose I will be fighting you for it at a venue soon; lots of people are very talented and I have witnessed it many many times by working in the theatre for thirty years where I saw talent that would blow your mind; the craft verses art argument is so old it doesn't say anything new apart from the fact that the actors I know who use the American way of talking about acting as a craft are not usually the artists in any case.
    But my main beef with you is about the style of some actors and actresses like Meryl Street who make acting look hard. Number one they have to use an accent and/or a voice; now doing an accent or a voice is nothing to do with acting; look at the brilliant performance from Michael Caine in Cider House Rules; he tried the Maine accent (the only one who did in the film) but his performance made the imperfections in the accent irrelevant.
    Meryl Streep, who I have nothing against, uses some accent or voice in nearly everything she does and the people who don't know anything about acting think it's good. But where's the depth in her work? There may be variety but there is little depth. She never moves me – Sydney Poitier seems to move me every time.
    Al Pacino another actor with great depth – and danger!!
    I saw a film a few years ago – Alpha Dog; the film about the life, or part of it, of Jesse James Hollywood and one of the actresses in it was brilliant; she was playing the mother of the murdered boy; when I looked to see who this brilliant artist was I was surprised to see it was Sharon Stone. No huge publicity, no putting on an 'ugly face' like Charlize Theron or a self indulgent 'in the moment' boring method performance - just the truth.
    Of course she has been seen as a blonde bimbo in her day but she couldn't even get an agent and had to do it her way.
    Plenty of actors and actresses are like that and do you know who one of Marlon Brando's favourite actors was? Tony Curtis.
    Tell that to someone who knows nothing about acting, which I did, and they say “oh! My mudder and my farder.”
    So I expect we'll be fighting . . . .

  2. No fight. I stand by my words. Not to mention I'm going to let the air out of your tires tomorrow at the six mile point.

    Websters: Talent -a person or persons with special ability. A special often creative natural ability.

  3. I don't usually read blogs (slow reader) but cause I found it through Shooting People, I took the time. Interesting blog! Great that you're willing to go out on a limb (which makes it interesting) and even sparking a fight (also interesting). For my two cents, I seem to have run across a ton of extremely talented people who just don't have the stomach or the nerve for the self-promotion necessary to 'make it'. And film with its promise of fame AND money may just appeal to the worst elements and in droves. Good luck with raising the money for your budget. I'll look forward to future posts. Thank you.

  4. You knows that Sharon Stone is going to cut you, man - but thank God Meryl Streep has your back!

    Eddy xxoo