Marty’s Seven Steps to Leading a Creative Life

I recently read an article by Rick Tetzeli in Fast Company about one of this generations greatest directors, (although he doesn’t seem to think so) Martin Scorsese.  At age 69, Marty is still making amazing films.   After 35-40 years of battling with Hollywood’s corporate whores this man has proven that “living a creative life” takes moxy.  His seven points were a little reminder that leading a creative life can be a life-fulfilling and lucrative business if you can navigate the many sharks in the water.

Lesson 1: Respect the Past.

Look to your mentors, their work, their careers, and their lives. If you have seen any older films lately, (Ace in the Hole, 1951, The Red Shoes, 1948) chances are that Marty has contributed to the commentary or has been interviewed as part of the “extras”.  He knows these films inside and out because he has looked to their strengths and weaknesses to inform his own work.

Lesson 2: Trust Your Confidants.

The creative process is, for the most part, a collaborative effort. Matthew and I are strong believers in this, as many know.  Having a pool of experienced and multi-talented support in whatever creative field you are in is an asset cultivated with time. Some of the most creative moments can be conceived due to  the suggestions of those around you.

Lesson 3: Don’t Trust Your Confidants too Much.

“There are two kinds of power you have to fight.  The first is the money, and that’s just our system.  The other is the people close around you, knowing when to accept their criticism, knowing when to say no.” – Martin Scorsese.  Enough said.

Lesson 4: Play the Corporate Game.

Sometimes you need to make calculated business moves to secure respect of the corporate world as well as gain financial credibility.  Take on corporate work and push the creative limit as much as you can while still meeting their rules and goals.  Take their money, respect, stamp of approval, and move on.

Lesson 5: Defy Them When you Must.

It is easy to get swayed off the path of creative righteousness.  In Marty’s case, film is all about telling “a story”.  In the waning weeks of production on a film it can get tricky, political, and it can be easy to give in to studios demands and threats.  Knowing when to defy those threats for the good of the project , or “the story” in Marty’s case, is key.  Learning how to negotiate around the forceful  tactics of the “financial committee” (a.k.a. the projects funding source) is an acquired skill that is not bestowed on everyone. If you plan to be successful in the creative world, learn to negotiate like a pro or befriend someone who can.

Lesson 6:  Find Another Outlet – or Eight

Although moonlighting has always been frowned upon in the world of architecture, I am a strong believer that side projects make people in any profession more valuable as a whole.  For me, its a form of breaking the monotony of my daily grind and exploring new, collaborative projects that I am interested in learning from in some way.  For our friend Marty, its about doing more with whatever creative gift you have (i.e. eight side projects over the course of two years including: directing 3 documentaries, directing and producing the epic HBO series Boardwalk Empire, a film to come out in 2012 called La Tercera Orilla, and A Terence Winter project for HBO about a drug-fueled movie exec set in the 70’s, as well as being the founder and Chairman to the Film Foundation, which has restored over 550 old movies and salvaged the silent-film era.)

Lesson 7: Give Back and Learn

There is an excitement to found in working with generations younger than you.  If someone shows interest in what you are doing, encourage them in whatever way possible, watch their minds open when you engage them, and infuse culture into them as much as possible.

So there you have it.  Since most of you already have black rimmed glasses, now all you will need is black bushy eyebrows and snow white hair.