Note: This article is also included in our year-end creative wisdom round-up.
Ambitious creators in any industry could stand to learn a thing or two from director Ron Howard. For instance, when Twitter co-creator Biz Stone was tapped to participate in Canon's Project Imagina10n filmmaking contest recently, he revealed that Howard’s career was an inspiration for the path of his social media empire. “We were getting a lot of media attention early on with Twitter,” Stone told Co.Create recently. “And I told everyone on the team that we didn’t want to burn out quickly from being in the spotlight. We wanted to grow and develop like Ron Howard.”
While there are indeed other filmmakers who first became famous as child actors before pursuing fruitful careers in front of and behind the camera--Drew Barrymore and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are prominent examples--Howard will always be the golden yardstick by which they're measured. It's hard to imagine anyone else so thoroughly eclipsing his acting roots by helming classics like Splash, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind, the last of which brought in an Academy Award for Best Picture. Among his many other accomplishments, Howard is also the one who conceived and produced Arrested Development, and handpicked Mitch Hurwitz to take the reins.
One does not reach a position of Ron Howard's cinematic stature without acquiring rare insight into the inner-workings of what makes a film a success. With his latest effort, the Nika Lauda racing biopic, Rush, now in theaters, and Project Imaginat10n contest videos available online, Howard offered Co.Create three bits of wisdom for filmmakers that could also apply to creatives in any field.
Challenge your story idea. Imagine yourself asked to watch it. Really imagine others committing the time to view it. Understand what you and your friends would appreciate about a movie version of your idea, then go for it.
Dream, write, discuss with collaborators and plan your approach and organization so you are maximizing your resources--and then use all of it as a great foundation, but stay open to innovation as you make your movie. Creative discoveries and surprises that open up along the way amount to something you want your work to benefit from.
Shooting your movie will be exciting, but editing is where the project is ultimately made. That's the final rewrite, the place where you can really understand what your movie can grow up to be. Despite all your vision and creativity every film finally takes on a life of its own. Look for that, discover and enjoy the surprises.