When you see someone who embodies (“makes visible”) a specific value, it can be inspirational. This is a story about the great writer/director, Sam Fuller, who WAS the embodiment of creative energy and generosity of spirit.
When I first met Sam in 1967, I had come back to LA from college to interview him for my first book, THE DIRECTOR’S EVENT.
We arrived at his house, and he was moving all his furniture to a new place. After a brief handshake, he said, “Okay, fellas, please load up your car and drive it to (address).” We did, and followed this with about 8 more loads.
By then, it was mid-evening. He next said, “What’ll ya have for chow?” We told him, and he lighted up his barbecue.
While the meal was cooking, he said, ‘What’ll ya have to drink?” Without awaiting our response, he poured two tall glasses of vodka (neat – no ice).
Next, we ate. After that, he said, “Wanna rope?” (his nickname for a cigar). Before we could answer, he unsheathed two enormous smokes, removed a railroad spike from his belt, cut a hole in the end of both cigars, and lit us up with wooden matches.
I was turning green.
Finally, about midnight, he said, “What did you want to talk about?”
We got it together, and brought out our list of questions. By about 8am the next morning, we had discussed not only all of the movies he’d made, but talked about some eagerly anticipated projects for the future.
We almost passed out with exhaustion, but his energy was truly infectious.
I learned that day/night a definition of what it meant to be a professional filmmaker. Boundless energy, incessant creativity and a thirst for the action and games of life. Sam’s dedication was not bounded by time issues – only by his enthusiasm.
Over the following decades, I learned that Sam affected everyone in that same way. In fact, he wrote the script for Peter Bogdanovich’s first film, TARGETS, in one 24-hour period. And he did that for the joy of creating – NOT for the credit, money nor any of the other common factors that follow so many people’s professional drive.
When my father wrote his own autobiography, STUDIO AFFAIRS, 30 years later, Sam came to the book signing at Samuel French’s Bookshop. Though he was by now wheel-chair bound, he was a fountain of spirit and creative energy. He heartily congratulated Vincent and told glorious tales of his own Hollywood days.
A good friend of mine went over to Sam and said, “You’re an inspiration to me.” Sam asked him what he wanted to do. He answered, “Make films.” Sam responded: If you want to make films, you’ve got to have GIANT BALLS!
The courage to stand up for yourself and your projects; the tenacity to hang in there, no matter what. These are qualities you can develop yourself. I know that YOU can do it. So, remember Sam’s example. His light served as a guide for many of us along an otherwise dark and confusing path.
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