Hitchcock and Expertise

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

I’m a fairly inventive guy when it comes to creating things. This is especially applicable when it comes to editing/directing/writing short films that I make. I have always loved watching and analyzing films, and find myself constantly drawn towards making movies. This is why I’ll be making another movie soon for a national film festival.

Anyways, I’ve gotten significantly better at making movies over the years because I love it and keep doing it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t find myself poring over film books on my own time, or starting a DVD editing business, or watching “There Will Be Blood” three times in the theater because I was so enraptured with the cinematography. I love it and keep going back to it, even though I know it’s not a particularly viable career path. But it’s because I keep working on it and researching it that I’ve gotten to a point that I know I’m much, much better than I was four years ago.

But auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock keep me (and pretty much every director in Hollywood) humble. After analyzing Hitchcock’s work for a semester, it’s hard not to be thoroughly intimidated by his career. This guy not only knew every single technical aspect of filmmaking, he also manipulated the system to get past censors time and time again. He knew how to control his actors to get them to show the emotion he wanted. He drew every single shot in great detail so he wouldn’t have to worry about the camera crew screwing things up. On top of all that, he consistently made great movies with great stories. Countless directors have emulated his work (some have shamelessly, especially Brian DePalma), scores of movies have incorporated Hitchcockian elements, and every single filmmaker has somehow been influenced by the man. He was a storyteller, an artist, and a great strategist.

There was a period when Hitchcock unleashed masterpiece after masterpiece. Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and finally, Psycho. Each of these are iconic works, but it seems to me that, after having watched all of these in sequence, Psycho was the pinnacle for the director. It seemed to incorporate all of his famous motifs and visual elements into one brilliant film. But this was after working hard for almost 40 years. Hitchcock was not always a genius. He worked hard at becoming one everyday, building an impressive body of work that got stronger as he went along. He created his own unique style while harnessing every film skill he could pick up. Psycho was the culmination of his greatness, and it proved once and for all that Hitchcock was the master of suspense.

My point is that when you find something you love, you’ll keep coming back to it. Hitchcock loved telling stories and he loved turning his films into works of art. He kept working at it, and as a result, became great. Expertise breeds expertise. The more you do something you love, the better you’ll get at it. It’s a simple message that everyone seems to know, but few actually live by.

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