I think I speak for all of us at 1AU when I say one of the big reasons we love what we do is that we have the great, humbling privilege of working with new ideas everyday. As professional creators, our working lives are all about having conversations on subjects we may have only just discovered, or recently excavated. What we make is not unlike the fruits of a long, successful expedition. When Howard Carter uncovered Tutankhamun's Tomb in 1922, the discovery itself made him famous, but it's arguable that a discovery like that would not have attracted anyone's attention if it did not involve great challenges of politics, funding, and endless, delicate digging in desert sand. The adventure of discovery is nearly as important as the discovery itself.
In short, I'm thankful.
Ninety years ago this week, Carter made his fateful discovery, opening a tiny hole into one of archaeology's--and popular culture's--greatest discoveries. But Carter is no instantaneous discoverer. He is no lucky traveller on a lark with a trowel. For decades he made his way across Egyptian sands, searching, digging, reading the signs for a long lost culture hidden from the 20th century by disinterested sands. Most of those years he labored in anonymity. In fact, eighty-nine years ago Carter almost gave it all up, and not by choice. His benefactor George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, gave the great archaeologist one more season worth of funding. He told Carter either to make a major discovery or call it quits.
Timing is everything. Carter became a legend.
Should Carter have showered his benefactor with obeisance? With deference? With fawning subservience? I don't think so. Carter made the discovery; his funder made the discovery possible. There's a space in history's bookcase for both.
I would suggest that the things Carter most owed his benefactors are gratitude, thanks, and appreciation. People who make discoveries, who risk bold ideas of all sorts often have the vision to even dream such things because the paths they've taken in life are not about acquiring the means to empower such things. Lifetimes of academic study or artistic development often do not yield the resources to fund novel enterprises. Risks do not mean these enterprises have guarantees of success. They would be ordinary things if there were no risk, and for those asking for backing, be it financial, political, or just someone to hold the ladder while we climb up to the ceiling to paint on our backs, it's essential that we retain an honest dollop of awareness that we'd be nowhere without our benefactors.
Are you a benefactor? A client? Thank you very much. Now, pardon us please: we have work to do.
While I may sound like an entitled, self-interested, smug know-it-all, I actually believe that people, governments, and institutions that have the means to support risky scientific, aesthetic, or academic enterprises are obligated to do so. It's part of the social contract. Societies require many inputs to be healthy and whole. Just as farmers shouldn't have to be responsible for laying the roads that help them get their goods to market, artists and explorers should have some means to pursue goals which inevitably will contribute something substantial to the societies in which they live.
But money and politics will get you…money and political stamps of approval. They don't do anything to stage an opera. They don't lift a single shovel of sand. That's why on this Thanksgiving I'm also celebrating, even calling out, the often unsung numbers who stand shoulder to shoulder as teams, enabling enterprises of all sorts. You think Spielberg makes his movies by himself? How about Elon Musk and his rockets? Of course not.
I'm thankful for that tight, close group of colleagues who help me transform seemingly impossible mountains of ore into refined jewels one shovel at a time. I'm thankful for all the late night checks on render queues, for spontaneously generated ideas for clever 3D models captured on the backs of envelopes while walking up from the mailbox, for smart schemes to hide a microphone in a shot. I'm grateful for a sense of humor on set when the clock threatens to knock us out, for smart ideas that are unafraid of being alternatives to expectations, for helping wash dishes after a wrap party. But mostly I'm thankful for the sense of teamwork that comes from shared ownership, that none of us are able to make what we do by ourselves, and that when we work in sync we're capable of things we can only dream about as individuals.
I'm grateful to walk out into the desert every single day secure in the knowledge that I'm not alone.
This Thanksgiving, consider how you excavate the deceptively plain sands all around you, empowered by your benefactors, colleagues, friends, and community. Nobody creates in a vacuum. But because some people make their way through life propelled by the need to create and explore, it's essential that we maintain a dialog about the many ways all parties to the process play a role. Call it reciprocal gratitude. It's not something that needs to be spackled onto our lives like an abrasive obligation. Instead, consider it a shared bottle of water, something to hand off to the person next to you when you unexpectedly find yourself digging in the sand, trying to get something done.
From everyone at 1AU Global Media we wish you all the best for a safe and satisfying Thanksgiving.
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