Friday, April 13, 2012



God created you as individually as a snowflake. Your expression, your personality, what you have to say in your art, your business, will be forever lost to the rest of us if you do not say it.

I discovered this after by making a documentary short film entitled "Saving Sister Aimee." The project was birthed when I went on an Artist’s Date to the temple Aimee Semple McPherson built in 1927 near Hollywood. ("Artist’s Date" is a term I learned from Julia Cameron. It means taking a few hours alone to do something that interests you.) My Artist’s Date resulted in my meeting older people who knew Sister Aimee. I shot interviews with them and working with my talented editor Jaime Prater, interspersing them with other footage.

The resulting thirty-seven minute film was in the 2001 Academy Award competition for Best Short Documentary. The Oscar qualifying screenings were at the Art Theatre in Long Beach. At the documentary screenings I met some of the prestigious people attending such as an Academy Award judge and famed producers of big budget blockbusters.

One producer told me he liked my documentary and that he was "making a feature dramatic film on the life of Sister Aimee." I learned that several of Hollywood’s biggest stars were committed to make an epic movie about her. Crazy monster thoughts invaded my mind. They stole my idea. (Doing the documentary engrossed me in her story, so I’d decided earlier my next project would be to make a feature length dramatic movie using talented actors to tell the story of Aimee’s life.)

What chance do I have to make a dramatic feature on Aimee if the big boys are doing the same thing? They will do it better and get all the attention.

I felt discouraged.

I walked in the woods by myself and prayed. A spiritual epiphany happened. The still, small voice inside me reminded me that God made me unique and even if we told the same story our films would be different. As a boy attending Joseph Fitzpatrick’s art class at the Carnegie in Pittsburgh, fifty of us could look at the same human model and sketch him. And guess what? There would be fifty different drawings.

I made my film on a wing and a prayer using drugstore $300 camcorders my friend Jeff Griffith purchased. My feature dramatic film "Sister Aimee" (the one I initially thought I shouldn't make because someone with more resources would do it better) was released into every Blockbuster store and nominated for best feature in Milan. The other big budget version with the superstar cast is still stuck somewhere in development hell.

I face the same issue today as I finish my film on baseball great Roberto Clemente. Several major studios and big names have had a film in development about him. But I learned from my past experience to keep doing my work. I will most likely be the first to release a dramatic feature on Clemente.

A rich producer friend of mine said, "Richard, I am jealous of you. You just go out and make the edgy movies you want to make. I’m bogged down with bureaucratic red tape. I’m stuck dealing with the suits at the studio. They aren’t artists. They make hardware movies that dumb down America. You’re free."

"I’m jealous of you because you make more money," I said.

He laughed. "Trust me, in this David and Goliath story, you may be David, but you’re a free artist."

Maybe it’s not so bad being David after all.

Psalm 139 says "You are fearfully and wondrously made." My friend and assistant director on our Roberto Clemente film, Claudia Duran shared this quote: "There is no offense you could ever commit that could rob you of the magnificence of who you are."

Don't let the song inside you be buried. Someone could write a song, make a film, paint a picture on the same story or subject as you, but yours would be completely different and special.

You have so much time left. Do what you came here for. If you don't share your unique expression with the world, it will forever be lost. There is only one person in all of history exactly like you. As Elvis used to sing, "That's the wonder of you."

(This is an excerpt from Richard Rossi's upcoming new book "Create Your Life: Daily Meditations On Creativity" due out this summer)


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