The main thing that struck me again and again during the interview was McQuarrie's creative frustration with where he is and what he's achieved. He wants to be an auteur, making films for himself, and yet to earn a living he's had to adapt to the corporate system, to give the audience and the movie studios what they want. He says:
"Don't be surprised when you write a script that you know is good and nobody buys it. And nobody wants to read it. Because no one [in Hollywood] is interested in making your script. They have a huge mandate on their table: all this product that they have to generate and they need people to help them do it. And so I stopped being a person who looked at them as if they were people who were not giving me a chance and started looking at them as people who were terribly lost and desperately in need of help."This new outlook was key to McQuarrie's recent career resurgence. And yet:
"Does that make me a happier filmmaker? No. Am I more fulfilled? No. Now I'm working a lot more and a lot more is getting made. But am I getting closer to having the power to make films that I really want to make? No."This is a microcosm that defines many of us trying to make it in the writing game – the business of making a living as a writer can actively get in the way of creative satisfaction. And yet there are others who seem able to follow their muse on every project and still attract a sizable audience. Is this just luck? Or is there a certain visionary quality that marks out some creative people, while the rest of us toil away as mere craftsmen (and women)?
Like McQuarrie, I'd love to have the kind of unique mind and skill set that would allow me to set myself apart from the rest of the market. But I also have to be aware of my own limitations, that my abilities lie in relatively conventional areas such as character, dialogue and story, not in linguistic fireworks or indelible imagery. Right now, children's writing feels like a great place for someone with my skills, but perhaps the market is already shifting, becoming more interested in surface concepts such as concept rather than the deeper satisfaction provided by a good story well told. I spent a lot of time in the early years of my writing trying to manipulate existing storytelling forms to deliver something truly new, without a great deal of success. Perhaps I see the world too conventionally to become a true visionary? Or maybe the world of author-led fiction may yet help me to unlock a truly distinctive, popular voice?
Ultimately, though, perhaps there's nothing wrong with being a mere craftsman who has the ability to construct an appealing story with wit and verve. Creative frustration does serve a very definite purpose, which is to keep pushing you towards towards new creative goals. Too many auteurs settle into a comfortable rut, safe in the knowledge that their devoted fans will continue to follow them, no matter how self-indulgent and repetitive their work becomes. So it's probably a good thing that McQuarrie stays frustrated and (more importantly) stays focused on the task at hand:
"You can't control success any more than you can control failure. You just have to keep making movies."