Filmmaking Myth #5: “People will love my work in the future / when I'm dead.”

I used to think like this early in my artist's journey.

"You watch... Everybody's going to realize how much of a genius I was after I'm dead!"

Maybe this sounds familiar.

Nobody gets you or your art. 

It just sits on a shelf…

...until the people of the future, of course, discover what a genius you were.

Well, maybe that’ll happen… but maybe it won’t.

If you can’t influence the world in your lifetime, what chance do you have when you're no longer around?

Nobody wants to be like Vincent Van Gogh.

This was the other part of my crackpot theory.

“I’m like the Vincent Van Gogh of digital cinema.”

When you read the private letters of Van Gogh he was obviously experiencing a lot of pain his daily life: mental anguish, existential dread, monetary hardships, romantic voids, self-doubt, social stigmas, and physical pain.

He created beautiful works of art because he was motivated by something higher than himself.

And then he committed suicide at the age of 37.

And he left his work… for the future.

The fame he never achieved in his lifetime was now his after death.

Would the world have given Vincent such a shot if he had lived to be 82 years old?

The truth is that his artwork became popular because of spirited branding and marketing efforts.

Business people knew what they had & how to sell it.

Vincent didn’t.

And that’s why someone else profited, in the future, from the artist’s work.

There’s no guarantee it’ll happen to you – and the result, when it does happen, is quite vulgar.

That's how I feel now about the works of Van Gogh.

I have trouble looking at them.

It feels vulgar to drool over the private intimate paintings of a man who suffered so much.

The joy he felt in the process of creating feels, to me, eclipsed by the way his life ended.

Don’t be Vincent Van Gogh.

Learn what it takes to sell your movies NOW.

Become successful in your lifetime.

Nobody is going to give it to you.

Not even in the future.

You're going to have to take whatever success you can get.

If you become successful in the future, after you’re dead – just like in the case of Vincent Van Gogh – it’s because some enterprising business person took your artwork and monetized it for themselves…

...but it will NOT be the result of the general public “spontaneously” discovering your genius.

It’s too much of a gamble betting on this outcome.

Plus, it’s likely that if nobody gives a fuck about your work in the present, nobody’s going to give a flying fuck about your work in the future.

You have a better shot at being successful in your lifetime than you do after it.

Make the most of your life.

Learn what it takes to become a successful artist, not what it takes to stay impoverished.

There’s no need to live in poverty through the duration of your life in exchange for making art.

The greatest artists have married commerce with their art, and profited immensely from it.

If you can mimic even 2% of the success of someone like Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick, or Werner Herzog then you’ll be set free for the rest of your life.

From now on you must believe that the better the art, the more money it makes.

A big budget movie you deem to be stupid or incompetent but makes a lot of money is actually a "better" movie than the average amateur movie.

Most people have their radar for film quality all wrong.

A movie's quality is not dependent on whether or not YOU like it.

A movie's quality is not dependent on its substance or content or craft.

A movie's quality is dependent on the IMPACT it has on the world.

If your movie is big and influential, it's a good movie.

And the easiest way to keep score on this key performance indicator is via profits.

The more money a movie makes, the better it is.

The movies that you love are likely to have made back the cost of its budget, plus more.

Because life is to be lived.

And lived well.

And art is to be enjoyed in the time that it’s made
AND forever.

A master is capable of entertaining today’s audience AND audience centuries from now.

Don’t be Vincent Van Gogh.


It’s so important to shed the idea that money corrupts art.

Money doesn’t make art better either, but it does not corrupt it.

Stupid and lazy people corrupt art.

Passion and intelligence creates great art.

But you’ll be unable to make art, or survive, without money.

So harmonize the joy of watching, the financial reward, and the impact, into your design.

That also means being realistic with yourself.

If you make a dry movie about sea-level rise under the assumption it’s going to go viral, don’t be surprised when it doesn’t.

You must be realistic about what audiences respond to – and most importantly, what audiences purchase.

The movie industry is the greatest industry.

It’s the only business where people pay money before they get the goods.

You just have to put enough razzle-dazzle in the picture so they don’t ask for a refund.

Find out what people want first.

Use your talents like that.

Express what so many people wish they could.

Or copy what’s worked in the past, but add your own style to it.

“Inglorious Basterds” is basically “Once Upon a Time in the West” but so what?

They’re both incredible experiences.

Why have one when you can have two for double the price?


Make the getting of money through your movies your #1 goal.

You’re probably already an artist.

But most artists stay poor.

Here’s all the things I wish someone taught me when I was a teenager.

I’m writing this down after 20+ years of thrills-n-spills, brutal trial-and-error.

Focus on the here-and-now.

Take extra notice of what people pay to watch.

Think of clever ways to incorporate this data into your own movies.

Finally, never blame the public for their taste.

Only blame yourself for not catering it.

Filmmaking Myth #6: “I need to learn all about (X) before I make (Y).”

Filmmaking Myth #4: “The artistic value is the most important thing.”