It’s 1927, and George Valentin is a Hollywood star, one of the greatest names in silent films. Sparks fly when he meets backup dancer Peppy Miller, but there’s no time for anything to come of it. The production company falls head over heels for her too, and features her in a new kind of movie: the talkies. Valentin, however, scoffs at the idea and refuses to take part, languishing away in the on the sidelines, refusing to speak, as Peppy becomes a star.
While watching The Artist, a mostly silent film, I experienced all the magic of classic cinema, coupled with the stimulation that comes with viewing the product of great artistic thoughtfulness. Every prop, every line was carefully crafted to build a story into art. It was sweet and delightful.
But in afterthought, I actually went through a period where I wasn’t sure it merited all the hype. I couldn’t reconcile it with my reactions while watching it. Until I finally realized why.
The Artist was not a flashy movie. It was not Avatar with its hot-shot visual effects. It was not Black Swan with its heated dark intensity. It was just quietly, confidently, undeniably itself. That’s when I realized how much I truly loved The Artist.
All artists should follow their ideas so earnestly.
But it’s just not as simple as that, is it? There’s a lot of pressure out there–from publishers, audiences, ourselves–to create something that will appeal to the masses and be a blockbuster. It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing things the way others are doing it. But where would The Artist be if it had been filmed in standard 2012 style? I am confident it would have flopped. There would have been no point. Everything that made it clever and magical would have been lost.
Your art is like that too. Don’t fall into the trap of following the path worn by those ahead of you. Start with your art and build from there. Follow it. Trust it. It won’t steer you wrong.
For The Artist, the result was earnest and delightful, both a throwback to an earlier era of Hollywood and a tribute. It captured the heart of the Academy, earning 10 Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture. Other award programs like the Golden Globes followed suit.
The Artist creators knew what they were doing. It wasn’t about getting the biggest audience, it was about telling the story right. And when you let your art take the lead, it will shine. What an appropriate message for a film about finding one’s voice.