Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hello, Sixty, My Old Friend

“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

The hope was that the search for a good quote for turning sixty would offer something unique and clever, so imagine my horror when most that I found online were dull and uninspiring. 

Bad enough that the fear of any artist is that not only is the "spark" gone, but that it will never come again. Never. No spark.

"You are not turning 60. You're just turning 20 for the third time." (Pretty random. Why not 10 for the 6th time? 30 for the 2nd time?)

"Celebrating he 39th anniversary of my 29th Birthday" (More fun with numbers. And, if we want to carry the Jack Benny joke, why not the 21st anniversary of my 39th birthday."

And, the dreaded....

"Keep Calm You're Only Turning 60."

Nothing is more like nails on a chalkboard to me than the misuse of the British Government's poster at the outset of World War II. This one doesn't even rhyme!

Neil's Young's "Old Man"? Not exactly on point.

"You can't be 60 on Sugar Mountain." Switching 60 for 20 doesn't make any more sense than those bad "Keep Calm" quotes.

I could have gone with Neil's "Better to Burn Out than to Fade Away," except I've been there and done that - five years ago when I turned 55! (Neil seems obsessed with age, doesn't he?)

And that's the point.

As my AD of many years once said to me in a cab after a long day, "JB, it's a young man's game." He's in his forties, and I met him when I was in my forties, and I felt old then.

The exuberance of youth is visible everywhere in film, from the emergence of ideas that come from developing minds, to the strength that comes with youth that helps move all that gear and keep you going on long days, to the beauty of youth that is so sought after in front of the camera.

Especially on low budget indies, where budgets do not always allow you to hire seasoned professionals in every position, there are constantly young people coming taking on jobs for the first time.

I've been one of the "old guys" for about the last twenty years now, so sixty is not likely to be much different than they have been.

Yes, the long days feel longer, and the early calls seem to come earlier, but the process is gradual. Monday -the day after my birthday - will not be a Dorian Gray moment. I don't expect to look in the mirror and be shocked that I look older. That happens already on those early mornings.

The blend of young people on set and those of us with a few more years is exciting. It's part of the magic, at least for me.

I try not to be that "get off my lawn" guy, or the guy who keeps telling you how we did it in the old days.

I'm not always successful at those two above, but I like to think I have enough mindfulness to at least see that I'm doing it when it comes up. The most important thing is that I keep on listening. That's important for all of us. Zen mind is Beginner's Mind. Always be the student.

David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross may have offered us the ABCs - Always Be Closing - but, our lesson is to Always Be Listening. Always Be Learning. Somehow, ABLs is not as alliterative.

I've just started prep on a movie where the director/producer is about a year older than me. We have a lot of years between us, but as it's an Ultra Low Budget movie, we will be relying on a lot of younger people to keep it going. He is also a teacher, and a mentor, and I'm really excited and looking forward to the experience. A fire a number of years ago has limited his mobility some, but certainly not his ability. I'll be proud to walk along side him with my cane (which I've used since in my thirties - so that's nothing new).

When John Huston was directing The Dead, his health had deteriorated, and he was in a wheelchair and had the aid of an oxygen tank. Asked if he was embarrassed, given the reputation he had gained as an adventurer in his rugged youth, he said that only vanity would have kept him hidden in his current state.

"I don't like the part of being bound. But I've never discovered an answer to that question of what does freedom really consist (of). If you aren't fettered by one thing, you're fettered by another."
"I'm not hungry or thirsty. I'm not lovelorn. I'm just at the end of a piece of plastic tubing. And we're all hostages in one way or another." 

As for the spark, I had the opportunity to do a page-one rewrite of a script that I was set to direct, until it got postponed.  That was only a month or so ago, and it's some of the best writing I've done in a while. It was done in a short time, and that came with the craft, the experience.

I was on the phone the other day with "The Ex," who regular readers know is a lot wiser than I am. "Well, I turn 60 on Sunday," I told her.

She passed that mark in August.

"Yeah. The thing about turning sixty is it's better once it's over. You spend all this time thinking about it leading up to it, and, then, when it comes, it's not a big deal."

Seems the spark isn't gone with her, either. Many bows, Maureen, for offering me the quote I was looking for.

Wondering what this post will look like when I turn seventy!


Michael Taylor said...

Turning 60 suddenly makes 50 seem like the first blush of youth... and I recall that feeling well. Of course, that's the effect turning 50 had on my perception of 40, and 40 of 30, and so on. We begin life in an empty room standing on an open expanse of floor, then time gradually shrinks that floor a little more each year until we're finally forced into a corner, on our tiptoes, with nowhere to go but up -- or down. Seven years ago, I thought 60 sounded impossibly old, but now... well, let's just say I'd love be 60 again.

Ah well, tempus fugit, and so do we. Congratulations on reaching such an august age. Plenty of people in our business didn't make it that far. I can tell you this much: over the latter years of my Hollywooden career, I always loved to see an older producer at the helm. Those guys knew what they were doing, and didn't run us through the rolling hamster cage like so many younger, clueless "producers," who were that in name only.
So keep on keepin' on -- you're an old pro now, and thus a very valuable member of the film community.

All the best!

Aric Blue said...

Happy late birthday! And yeah, as a guy approaching 50, the "young man's game" thing seems more and more applicable, especially when microbudget filmmaking is concerned...