by Sidney Lumet
I’m not a movie freak. I enjoy watching movies from time to time, and yes there are different actors or directors or writers I’m more interested in than others, but I didn’t read this book for the movie lore and or even the more technical notes on cameras and lenses. I decided to read it because of Austin Kleon’s blog post about the book. I read it because I’m curious about how people who do creative work get it done, especially over the long haul.
One this score, the book didn’t disappoint. Here’s Lumet talking about his role as director:
I’m in charge of a community that I need desperately and that needs me just as badly. That’s where the joy lies, in the shared experience. Anyone in that community can help me or hurt me. For this reason, it’s vital to have the best creative people in each department. People who can challenge you to work at your best, not in hostility but in a search for the truth.
I realized these ideas don’t just apply to what are traditionally thought of as creative endeavors. I work for a tech company, and I think this attitude could apply equally to product managers working with design, development, and QA making software.
Lumet also has what I thought of as an equivalent to Tim O’Reilly’s work on stuff that matters:
My job is to care about and be responsible for every frame of every movie I make. I know that all over the world there are young people borrowing from relatives and saving their allowances to buy their first cameras and put together their first student movies, some of them dreaming of becoming famous and making a fortune. But a few are dreaming of finding out what matters to them, of saying to themselves and to anyone who will listen, “I care.”
Lumet’s description of a group of people working together who get it, who understand not just the how but the why of the work they are doing boils down to “We’re all making the same movie.”
As the car came over the crest, I saw below me a small, concentrated, white-hot diamond. Everything around it was black except for this beautiful burst of light, where the set was being lit. It’s a sight I’ll always remember: people working so hard, all making the same movie, creating, literally, a picture in the middle of a forest in the middle of the night.
I’m going to use this as metaphor for collaborative work that gets difficult and messy — which is all the best kinds, right?