Steven Spielberg has decided he is no longer going to direct Indiana Jones 5, which makes the weird Kingdom of the Crystal Skull his personal “last crusade” with the beloved character (thank you, that line just came to me).
While reading this news, I discovered that he’s in the process of finishing an updated version of West Side Story as his next movie.
I don’t follow upcoming movies as closely as I used to, but this still came as a surprise to me because…
Actually, I don’t know. My first reaction was that I simply wasn’t expecting the guy behind Jaws and Jurassic Park and Minority Report to do a film remake of a Broadway musical.
But the more I thought about it, Spielberg doing West Side Story shouldn’t have been surprising at all because there really is no pattern to follow with his creative choices. Throughout his career he has been wildly and pleasantly all over the place, jumping from giant CGI masterpieces to dramas to kids movies and back again with relative ease.
In fact, when you look at his IMDB page, the ONLY thing that stands out is his unpredictability.
Sure, you can lump some of his movies together by category, but they rarely fit that way chronologically.
He made Sci-Fi movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, E.T. in 1982, Jurassic Park in 1993 (if you want to put it here), Minority Report in 2002, War of the Worlds in 2004 and Ready Player One in 2018.
In between these movies he made some heavy, character-driven dramas like Schindler’s List in 1993, Saving Private Ryan in 1998, Munich in 2005 and Lincoln in 2012.
Bridge of Spies and The Post are also in this category and came out in 2015 and 2017…
However, in between those two serious dramas he sandwiched an extremely underrated and enjoyable kids movie, The BFG in 2016.
In between Minority Report and War of the Worlds he made The Terminal, which was okay, and Catch Me If You Can, which was phenomenal.
Other than labeling him a “Blockbuster Director” or “Oscar-Winning Director” there is no way to pigeon hole the kinds of movies he chose to make.
In one stretch last decade he rattled off The Adventures of Tintin and then War Horse and then Lincoln.
Kids, action/drama, character study.
Who the hell could have mapped that out?
Imagine if he “stayed in his lane” or tried to “stay on brand” with what he was doing early in his career and just did science fiction? Or only made suspense films? Or totally stuck to kids movies?
Instead, he followed his gut and went with what interested him and didn’t give a shit about how his movies tied together or whether he was “sticking with what got him there.”
I mean, the guy made Hook, Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park back-to-back-to-back.
Early in my writing career I found myself getting caught in men’s health publishing quicksand. At one point I was writing for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness. I could write a story in the “fit, sarcastic dude” tone in my sleep. In my twenties, this suited me just fine…
But as I got older and wanted to write for more places and cover different topics, I was stuck with a stack of bylines from a potpourri of publications that were all saying the same kinds of things to the same kinds of guys.
At that point, I made a conscious choice to begin writing about all of my interests and I started pelting editors from all different publications.
Amazingly, opportunities began opening up almost immediately.
I landed an advice column in GQ. I got a column with HoopsHype.com. I got a 12-book deal with the NBA to write a series of kids books on Iverson and Shaq and Kobe and KG and all the stars of the early 2000s. I even landed a piece in the New York Times… None of which would have happened if I stayed on-brand in the men’s health fitness space.
Whatever your career is, you can do the same thing. Take on new assignments. Take that class in that course you wanted to take. Learn how to do a thing that nobody else in your company can do.
More importantly, seek out new challenges that interest you. Explore your creativity.
With technology where it is, you can start a podcast, publish a book, launch a TV show, start a newsletter, go live on Twitter or do literally anything you want and you can start in 10 minutes.
Don’t get stuck. Read books about the kinds of careers and jobs you want to have and then figure out what you need to do to land them.
Don’t just keep making your version of Jaws over and over again. And I’m not just saying this stuff. I followed up my first big athlete biography on Charlie Ward with a massive book on fatherhood called Life of Dad and then put out a book ranking the US Presidents athletically called Jocks in Chief that landed me on CBS: This Morning.
Why? Because all of those topics interest me and as I’ve discovered, they interest people like me as well.
So get out there.
This philosophy hasn’t hurt Spielberg and it hasn’t hurt me and it won’t hurt you.
Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height,“Mean” Joe Greene , The ‘Greatest Stars of the NBA’ Series and other books about sports, fatherhood, fitness and more. His work has been endorsed by Spike Lee, Tony Dungy, Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and Chef Robert Irvine. He is the co-host of the Life of Dad Show podcast and Lunch Break Facebook Live Show, and he’s written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and dozens of other national publications.
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