Friday 17 May 2013

DAVID MOYES and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: A Blueprint For Genuine Achievement

"Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success, and is the key to being regarded honourably."
Jiro Uno, in the documentary 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi'

David Moyes just landed the best role in British football. He's the new manager of Manchester United, taking over from quite possibly the greatest manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson has won every top trophy and accolade you can win within the game. And he didn't just win them once, but time and time again. 

'Arrested Development' is returning. A much-loved but short lived sitcom that ran in the mid-2000's, but was cancelled-- because no-one was watching. 

What has happened at Manchester United, and with 'Arrested Development', has a lot to teach us about what we do, and how we do it. 

'Arrested Development' never once courted the easy laugh, the marketable strategy. It excelled at being excellent, complex, and hilarious. It is a show I have watched over and over and over and over again; and the laughs still come. The network never supported AD, and the viewers, in the end, never showed up. The question with TV is always, 'how do we market it?', 'how do we profit?' 

At least, that's how it used to be. That's what they thought the game was about. It's like football:

Jose Mourinho is a much-loved, often controversial manager, who has always had an eye on the Manchester United job. Why wouldn't he? League titles in England, Spain, and Italy; he's a masterful tactician and motivator, with bundles of ideas, talent and charisma. 

There have been many big name managers coming to the UK in recent years, such as Roberto Mancini, André Villas-Boas, Carlo Ancelotti, not to mention the many top British managers, Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce, Brendan Rogers. Each of those coaches have promised much, often delivered success, other times not. 

But David Moyes got the Man Utd job. He has been the manager of Everton FC for eleven years. He never won a trophy. Never achieved what so many see as success. 

But Everton never had money to spend on players. Their budget is minimal. And time and again, the best players would leave. Mikel Arteta, Wayne Rooney, Tim Cahill; and so many more. Yet under Moyes, the club went from being a team fighting for Premier League survival every year, to not only surviving, but pushing the top ten, and often the top four. 

Gradually, year by year, people within the game, and true fans of the sport; began to realise what a fantastic job he was doing. Season after season, Everton were playing some of the best football in the league, and no team would want to visit Goodison Park. 

So you might think that true accomplishment is high viewer numbers, or becoming the Chelsea FC manager with an unlimited budget to buy players from around the world. But there is something beautiful and fulfilling about the route of David Moyes, and the return of 'Arrested Development'. 

They're truly earned. 

"These days the first thing people want is an easy job. Then, they want lots of free time. And then, they want lots of money. But they aren't thinking of building their skills. When you work at a place like Jiro's, you are committing to a trade for life."
-Shrimp Dealer, in 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'

It's like Jiro Uno, in the must-watch documentary 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'; his mentality and work ethic is alien to most British and American people. Here we work long hours, constantly pushing for the better job, the bigger payslip. We forget to become excellent. 

Jiro managed to earn the bigger pay packet, merely through achieving true excellence. If you go to his restaurant in Tokyo now, you have to pay the equivalent of £200 per meal, just for a few bits of sushi. Yet people do it, because it's the best sushi in the world. £200 is great value. 

'Arrested Development' lives in the hearts of its fans. They know every line, they feel a sense of crazy joyous excitement any time anyone mentions a banana stand or hop-on. The show has a depth to it that is extremely rare. It has excellence. 

"I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct."
-Steve Martin

People get fame mixed up with success. If being on the red carpet is what you really want, you can just buy a ticket, or win a competition on the radio. David Moyes quietly got on with the job he had, in the best possible way. He rarely got linked to the big jobs in football, but then the biggest one in the game came along, and it was his - and deservedly so. 

That's why we're all so excited about the return of 'Arrested Development'. It's the best there is, it means more than the other shows. 

Whether you're writing scripts, coaching the football team, making sushi or running a banana stand, you have to focus on your craft. 

"The one thing you have to do is definitely sacrifice and persevere - it's not always a golden path of riches."
-Sir Alex Ferguson 

Care to share?

Thursday 16 May 2013

Knowledge / Ability / Talent Scale

I meet a lot of young actors. And often, we have these wonderful conversations about actors we love, styles we adore. The actor speaks about the importance of subtlety. I nod in agreement, saying I like the acting to seem almost imperceptible. They agree wholeheartedly.

And then I see them act, and it's awful. Wildly over the top. 

An artist can have a level of knowledge that they can't yet reach in their work.

Some actors are born with natural ability. They stood up on stage at five years old and all the parents said "wow, she HAS
 something." This actor, filled with confidence and a sense of entitlement, fails to take the time to truly learn the craft. This actor is constantly in a huff, wondering why she's out of work.

A good career happens when the knowledge is high and the ability is high. 

And that's why it takes so long to get great.

This isn't just about actors, I was using them to make a point. It's about all artists.

The amount of talent in each person, of course, varies greatly. But talent isn't the defining factor.

A weird thing happens in this industry. What happens? You land a job. And eventually, you land another one.

For example, an actor is starting out, and they can only get student films, nobody else wants to know. So they act in seven student films, and they're all terrible.

Yet the actor, armed with a huge amount of new knowledge and experience, starts getting cast in short films and web-episodes by talented independent film directors.

And then, two years later, the actor gets a line on a TV show and a small paid role in a feature film.

These things happen, in a gradual upward trajectory, based on the knowledge and experience that the actor has been building.

The actor could potentially fear a return to dull student films, but it's unlikely. So much has been learned and the actor now knows how to audition, how to take a meeting. The actor knows how to land a project, at a particular level. 

This is all knowledge, learned through being active in the game.

The actors who are at home, bitching about the lack of opportunities, are often the most talented actors around. That's why they're moaning, because their natural ability isn't being recognised.

It's because they're missing out on the crucial ingredient: knowledge. These actors apply to castings with a few clicks, and wait for opportunities to land. Or they nag director friends for roles every two weeks. They can't figure out why life is so hard.

And you ask them how many books they've read recently, ask them if they're getting together with other actors and working on their craft, and they aren't.

They think talent is enough. They think the film industry is an episode of X Factor.

And if you think I'm bitching about actors, let me tell you writers and directors are exactly the same. If you're not out shooting every week, then spending your evenings reading, watching, learning; then you're not really going anywhere.

The more work you do, the more ability and skill you attain. Meanwhile, the more old movies you see, the more Danny Boyle interviews you watch and the more classes you attend, the better you get.

Sometimes the artists with the least talent succeed. It's because they somehow seem to instinctively know that hard work will get them there.

It does.

And that's valid, they deserve it. You can't rely on talent, it's not the most important thing.

Care to share?

Monday 13 May 2013

Does ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Have Too Many In-Jokes? Come On!

I can think of nothing greater, TV-wise, than the return of maeby the greatest sitcom of our times for its 4th season. While many would say they've made a huge mistake, I am beyond excited. And while it's unlikely to suddenly find a mass audience, I would at least expect the occasional hop-on. 

There have been careless whispers for years, we always hoped it would return. And now - it has! No longer must us long suffering fans feel blue.

It ain't easy being a fan of this show. It ain't easy hoping for its return year after year. Now it's upon us, I have no idea what to do with myself, but I am sure of one thing: we need more balloons.

Who'd have thought, back when it ended, that it could ever return? That there'd be more episodes in the kitty, that it wouldn't be the last chance to see 'these'.

Many non-fans are put off by the in-jokes shared between fans. Do they have a point, or are they just chicken? Maybe it's just an illusion. 

You're either a fan or you're not. I can't even get my hermano to watch it. Anyway -- if you have good taste in film and TV, which surely you do, otherwise you'd be surfing a law blog rather than reading this -- do yourself a favour and watch the first three seasons. Don't be a pussy. 

Care to share?