I woke up this morning to discover Peter O’Toole had died. Watching him as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter, I didn’t think it was possible to love and hate a character so equally. When I experienced Lawrence of Arabia for the first time last year, part of me longed for the three and a half hour film to continue. And as an animated character, he was capable of delivering one of the most heartfelt monologues of all time in Ratatouille. I keep a mental list of individuals I really want to meet someday, and Peter O’Toole had been on it. We even share a birthday. According to his New York Time obituary, when he was 18, he wrote a self-addressed ultimatum:
“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony. I do not crave security. I wish to hazard my soul to opportunity.”
In October, I directed The Verge in New York City. Now back in Los Angeles, I’ve been burning the midnight oil working with post-production to translate those experiences into a finished story. Some filmmakers hate the process of editing, but I enjoy it. Seeing possibilities shift back and forth in a digital timeline, the ability to change perception in seconds. But it’s exhausting. And because it’s digital, my computer screen can sneakily drag my focus out of the real world. When that happens, creation gives way to pure analysis. Dangerous, if I lose sight of the purpose. In Letters to a Young Poet, I have a favorite quote which I return to at times like this:
a work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity
It’s been a cold winter (by LA standards), so when the sun came shining on Friday morning and the day was mine to make, I went for a walk. On the UCLA campus, not far from me, hides a surprisingly intimate botanical garden. I had just received an email from Vimeo about the latest “Weekend Challenge” to visually express words untranslatable. With my cellphone, and some advice from a good friend in the back of my mind, I returned to creation.
The joy of making something is incomparable. And to be an artist, it’s not simply a question of want, it’s a matter of need. I need to eat, I need to exercise, I need to sleep, I need to create. They are all of equal importance and I’m not my whole self when I forget. They should be a daily part of me.
It’s just like Chef Gusteau says in Ratatouille: “Anyone can cook.” Or create. Or inspire. And I must.