Saturday 14 June 2008

Pictures with purpose

Martin Luther King once said that there is no progress without struggle. All of the mountains we have to climb are what build our character. Every struggle we face gets us one step closer to our true sense of purpose.

Many years ago I was involved in a film making adventure in Los Angeles. I am referring to the story of “Purpose”. A moral fable for our times set in the high tech world of Silicon Valley at the turn of the millennium. This was an adventure in story telling of an all new American dream where quality continually seems to be pushed aside in the name of quantity. We shot the movie during October to December of 2000 and then we spent the first the next 5 months in post-production with the end result being a provocative and well timed movie.

“Purpose”, in my view, is a concise pop epic – a contemporary tale set in the world of San Francisco Dot Com startups. With the collapse of the then tech stocks, it was a innovative film to explore as fiction, the culture of greed that possessed a city associated in the past for its counterculture, romance and secular spirituality. But enough about the movie. Let’s move on.

Movies are about telling stories with pictures. They are about expression and they are about sharing a message with the world. At least, from a qualitative perspective that is what it’s all about. From an artist’s point of view, a motion picture represents an opportunity to inspire the world and provoke different thoughts in its audience. From a business point of view the commercial movie capital (like the rest of the business world today) seems to be all about the numbers. The purpose of the movie studios appears to be all about profits, fame and ego (not necessarily in this order either), everything else second, including the picture. That is probably the primary reason why there are so many bad movies out there (and along the same train of thought why there were so many Dot Bombs back then).

It is less and less about the message or the art and more and more about the money making formula. And that was my biggest struggle. Coming from a relatively sheltered environment and trying to comprehend this new world of slick talkers and shady dealers, where money is paramount, left me feeling very disappointed with Uncle Sam. Coming from South Africa the culture shock was quite overwhelming and the level of capitalism I was exposed to has left me feeling very anxious about the future. I always thought that capitalism was about free markets, competition, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. The form I experienced was more about ruthless tactics, brute force and aggressive confrontational interactions. I learnt that there is a fundamental difference between making a movie and the business of movies. Considering we made a movie that explores the theme of making money VS making a difference I find that the end result of my newly acquired wisdom and knowledge to be a divine series of ironies. At the very least, there is enough material for another script.

I could write endless VLOGs based on what I was exposed to in America. But for today I want to focus on “purpose.” I went to Los Angeles with a purpose. The movie has a purpose. And this VLOG has a purpose. Each one attempts to make some kind of a difference in the world. And in my efforts to contribute a verse to the powerful play of life I learnt some very hard lessons that have shaped my thinking and set me on an inspired path.

The end result of my American misadventure, well, I had a very big bite taken out of me. I had to fight for my life. There were so many times when the pressure and stress was so bad that I just wanted to run away. But I didn’t. I spent weeks not sleeping and I spent days upon days practically making myself sick from anxiety. I sit here now typing up this VLOG, quite calm and content, with no regrets, and the message I want to share with you all is about team spirit and perspective. The most fundamental thing I learnt in the past year, the thing I always admire at IS, is that life is a team sport. I was gung ho and inspired on my movie making mission but I was trying to climb a mountain on my own and in doing so I almost lost my way.

Life is short and uncertain and it is rare and precious. The good things in life are those things that are born in love. Focus on the quality and the quantity will sort itself out. And when pursuing your purpose seek out those who share your vision and work together as a team. Work on relationships and work on trust. Remember, nothing that is done alone in this world is as fun as when it is done as a team with people you care about. So, let me leave you with a line from one of the world’s best movies, “Every man dies, but not every man lives.” Have the courage to follow your dreams because life really is short. And when you chose to climb that mountain then go find others who will embark on the journey with you. And don’t stop progressing. The pyramids are getting closer and closer. And with it, so is your true sense of purpose.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker


BabeAbout said...

Wow! This is deeply moving, I almost feel like I've got palpitations coming on-ok maybe its something I've eaten, but then again, its also this fight or flight thing! What you have going on in this post is so close home to the truth, its opened up my eyes to dreams I've secretly haboured, lest the world thinks I have lost the plot! I especially like the last paragraph, telling us, commending us to go out there and achieve, but while doing so, to remember those we hold dear to us, most of all to acknowledge the fact that sometimes, if not often, we can't be an island-no matter how appealing, alluring and romantic the notion may be, of trying to achieve and do it all by ourselves! I guess I just wanted to say thank you really, because I had started procrastinating yet again, and hey presto! Very wise words!