Art Murphy, or A.D. Murphy as he was known when he wrote for Variety, was one smart guy. He was my teacher in grad school, and I am still channeling what he taught me lo these many years later.
One warm Los Angeles evening, he wrote a math equation on the board. 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. True. Simple. And horrifying.
This is what he told us.
If you’ve got a movie, and you’ve got the best screenplay, give it a one. If you’ve got the best actor, give him a one. The best cinematographer, the best director, the best editor, the best publicity campaign, etc., etc., if every element of your movie is a one, then, your movie, naturally, will end up being a one. Perfection. The best it can be.
If ANY element of your equation is not the best it can be, say, perchance, your editor, then the equation shifts. Let’s say the editor is half as great as he could be…
1 x 1 x 1 x .5 x 1 =
And what does it then equal… a point five. Your entire movie becomes a .5. The whole movie. Half as good as it should be, and this is true and terrifying. If ANY element of your movie is not as good as it possibly can be, you are well and truly screwed.
What a scary business. But then, what business isn’t?