Steven Spielberg’s latest, The Fabelmans, is an autobiographical piece about growing up in a fractured family as a frustrated dreamer with no idea of how to do what he cannot stop thinking about: making movies.
At one point, the Spielberg stand-in, Sam Fabelman, is interviewing for a television directing gig when the man he is talking with asks whether he wants to meet John Ford. Sam gulps and agrees.
When the grizzled director finally appears, he grumbles at Sam and directs his attention to two Western paintings on the wall. Ford asks Sam what he sees. Frustrated at Sam’s fumbling responses, Ford tells him what he was trying to point out: Where the painter placed the horizon.
When the horizon’s at the bottom, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s at the top, it’s interesting. When the horizon’s in the middle, it’s boring as shit. Now, good luck to you. And get the fuck out of my office.
Whether you are making a movie, writing a book, or painting a painting, keep the audience off balance. Lean into the unexpected. Make them look closer. Make them look harder.
And don’t be boring as shit.