Never follow your dreams!

The Second Peter Hyams Rule…The Article


Because rules need to be explained at length.
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Reported on 4th of January, 2015

I feel like Mr. Quentin Tarantino came up with this, but because I can’t find it on the internet, so that means that Mr. Peter Hyams did. Also, I added some stuff. I opined briefly on it here, but let’s give it its own page. As such Peter Hyams’ second theory of film making has to do with the way in which a filmmaker’s career is usually destroyed by their pet project, which is often their best work. The sequence goes like this.

The Second Peter Hyams Rule


re: Never follow your dreams!
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Step 1: Make film that everybody likes.

Step 2: Use that as your opportunity to make a film that you’ve always wanted to.

Step 3: It is a great, great film.

Step 4: Being a visionary, no one gets it.

Step 5: Your career is ruined (possibly), but what’s much much much worse

Step 6: You start making crappy films. Your soul is dead.

Step 7: Write an article that bemoans the current critical mass, so to speak. If anyone should be supporting filmmakers when audiences don’t, and should have the taste to know when something is a classic, it’s film critics. And you don’t.

Step 8: Being a visionary, no one gets me.

You make a bunch of films. Since it is impossible to know what people will like, at one point, you simply get lucky. Unless you’re Peter Hyams of course (that’s the first Peter Hyams rule, by the way). And so a bunch of people like your movie. They’ll no doubt give some reason they like it. Don’t worry; they won’t notice that they will gave this same reason for disliking your pet project. You make something your heart is in, which, I almost always like and almost everyone else detests.

What follows now is another missed opportunity for a clickfest, the top eight films that were successful, allowed the persons involved to make eight true masterworks, which led to eight films that represented their downfall. If you can’t put it in a zergnet caption, it ain’t worth readin’. Now read it:

Fargo  The Big Lebowski → Intolerable Cruelty

Alien → Blade Runner → Legend

War of the Worlds → Citizen Kane → Never got to make Life of Christ 

Rear Window → Vertigo → The Birds, also, never got to make movie with Jimmy Stewart regaining his sight at Disneyland, but that was because of Psycho. Well, someone’s got to argue with me, even if it’s me. It’s a list!

Meet John Doe → It’s a Wonderful Life → Here Comes the Groom

Dead Ringers → Naked Lunch → M Butterfly

The Sixth Sense → Unbreakable → Signs/The Happening/and down and down and down

Three Kings → I Heart Huckabees → The Fighter

Morvern Callar →We Need to Talk About Kevin → (Boy, do I hope to be wrong about Ms. Ramsey – Editor’s update: Does Ms. Ramsey’s meltdown and exit on the starkly unimpressive Jane actually got a bunch of men to help her’s Jane Got a Gun and the fact that she’ll probably never work again count? If it helps me be right, yes! If it depresses me beyond measure, also yes, but without the exclamation mark).

300 → Watchmen → Man of Steel

Se7en → Fight Club → The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The gist is, after the crushing loss of film number two, you try to recapture film number one, but your heart’s not in it, and everything goes to shit. Inevitably film number two becomes a classic, and all the people who hated it erase the internet and say they really liked it all along. I’m pushing it chronologically I know. For example, Psycho was made before The Birds, but 1) Psycho was wrapped before Vertigo came out, and 2) any correction accidentally implies there is someone reading this.

Nevertheless, there’s some truth in this theory. Mr. Capra’s career, utterly destroyed by a great film, is an authentic tragedy. Additionally the careers of the Coen brothers and Mr. David Fincher took a bit of a hit, but have rebounded. Possibly because both their personal films, hated at the time, are now considered classics.

But the rule works because it speaks to the psychic cost of truth by consensus, and the difficulty of keeping covenant with your own shit when you’re on your own. It’s hard to know what we’re doing, and we rely on others to tell us. This is true in scientific discovery, where you might have only dreamed that a bowling ball falls as fast as a feather in a vacuum. You have to call Watson in from the other room to see if your only dreaming.

Truth by mutual affirmation is appropriate in a business that costs a shitload of money to run. That being said, it might be nice if that mutual affirmation was the awareness that sometimes it takes a while for films (or TV shows, for that matter) to be what they are especially given that this delayed appreciation stuff happens quite a bit, and more often with films we wind up really really loving. Another possible consensus: that staying true to yourself is more likely to make that happen. In a business that should run according to the principles of venture capital, but in fact operates via bureaucratic committeethink, that’s not going to happen either. Maybe the money guys are staying true to their souls. What do I know.

The principle, conveniently, works for films that I’m right about but that everyone else is not. Consider this triptych:

Bottle Rocket → Rushmore → Everything Else Mr. Wes Anderson made.

Mr. Anderson was reportedly destroyed by the reception of Bottle Rocket, a film I really, really like. Regrouping, he made Rushmore, which I liked fine, though was confused by the overpraisedness of it all. Nevertheless, it was this film that so singled out as groundbreaking and super great, and you see him lean more towards symmetry and distance rather than the connected observational comedy than he should go back to. Likewise, Mr. Paul Anderson’s unfortunate serious turn after the daisy chain critical mass of the bland and nihilistic There Will Be Blood.

Are people who like Wes Anderson wrong? Sure, why not? But it’s besides the point. The Second Peter Hyams Rule works because of this struggle between doing something for other people, and relying on them to tell you what it is, that praise destroys and criticism, well also destroys, and in equal measure. The fact that the theory proves me right so often is just a happy coincidence. Thank God I don’t need a consensus.

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