It’s Not About the Money. (Trust me.)


We’re in the process of saying goodbye to a good friend and colleague in our department. Kyle Portbury, professor and filmmaker extraordinaire, is returning to Australia with his family after four years of teaching at our small university in north Texas. We’ve all grown very close, and it’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s one of those things that happens.

So last night, we all went out to the Hulen Movie Tavern to watch “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” It was a fun movie, but a couple of references after the movie was over piqued my curiosity. I had Shelly look it up online, and there was more to the story than meets the eye.

Apparently Terry Gilliam, the director, has been trying to get the movie made for 30 years. It has had a couple of documentaries made about the supposed curse on it as a project. At various times, they have had financial problems, floods and landslides, actors who don’t appear, plagues and other issues. They have hired many different actors to play the main parts over the years, ending with Adam Driver playing the main role the last time. Finally, after this version was completed, Gilliam was sued by a former producer who didn’t want the film made. The film was pulled from the Cannes Film Festival at the last minute last year, and is only going to be shown in limited places this year.

After all this time and effort, one might ask: what’s the point? Isn’t it about making money? And thirty years is a long time to be messing with one film project. It’s pretty obvious that Gilliam is going to lose money on this, not to mention years of his life.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in writing books, it’s this: sometimes it’s not about the money. In fact, most of the time it isn’t. What is it, then?

I would wager it depends on the person. You have to go back and ask yourself, why did you get into the business in the first place? I suspect that Terry Gilliam would say that he just wants to tell a good story.

There is a dignity in the ability to tell a good story. It’s underestimated, undervalued. Stories can change people’s minds, and in doing so, can change a lot of other things, including nations and history.

But first you have to have that burning desire to tell the story.

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