Last night I had a date night with my nine year old daughter. “Date night” consists of a dedicated few hours when she and daddy spend quality time doing something together that doesn’t involve mom or “the brother.” This date consisted of us watching the latest Martin Scorsese film, Hugo.
I won’t attempt to retell Hugo’s story, but I will say that typically when I view a film I get lost. I allow myself to go willingly wherever the director sees fit to take me. Perhaps that journey is under the sea or to outer space, either place I can momentarily remove my head from the day-to-day stress of life and work.
This film however had the exact opposite effect; it had me think of my parenting style. At the core, Hugo, is really director Scorsese’s message and plea that we preserve our planet’s film archives no matter if the message or technology by which the message is told is relevant or popular by today’s standards. There will always be an audience of people who will be interested, and, better yet, who can learn from that history if properly preserved.
In the movie, Ben Kingsley’s character, Georges, burns most of his original film reels, props, costumes and set pieces all because he believed society had moved on and no longer valued his story telling and body of work. Not until Hugo himself is connected to Georges do we eventually realize that Georges is the famous French filmmaker, Georges Méliès, responsible for developing many technical and innovative special effects in the early days of cinema.
In the end of the movie (and my need to avoid clever descriptive narrative about what happens), one enthusiastic Méliès film collector is introduced to the living Georges Méliès through Hugo. An appreciation for his storytelling and movie magic is once again brought to the cultured masses and his genius and innovation is once again appreciated. The message of the film most likely eluded my nine year old, but with me it also spoke to what I’m “preserving” for my children.
What Georges taught me is too many times in life and business that we just focus on preserving the wins and what make us popular, happy, gain immediate money and notoriety. And, just like George’s character, we tend to toss aside and not speak of failed attempts and unpopular beliefs if they don’t seem relevant or popular by today’s standards.
In the movie business, from an ROI perceptive, I totally get that it costs money to preserve, but in the end it’s a shame that preservation and care were not given to all the other stuff—the perceived bad ideas and the creative missteps. In life and business, I can learn just as much and save valuable time from “mistakes” made five years ago as I can from file cabinets filled with examples of success. Maybe my children can too. What’s the worst thing that can happen in my parenting if I push aside my ego and show them the failed attempts?
My big walk away from Hugo is that just about everything is of value to someone at some point and preserving the journey is just as important as saving the end result. I hope I’m the kind of father who passes along to my children the stories of my journey in its entirety not just my edits with my spin.
My daughter’s walk away was, “On our date night next week, we should look into going to France.” Oh well.
Scott Hathcock is a dear friend, founder and lifetime member of the DOTL Club. He is a crooner, thespian, artist and man about town, as well as father and husband.