While looking up a citation for Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu” for Tempest Road, I learned that Ride the Lightning, their second album, cost $30,000 to make. In today’s dollars, thanks to www.calculator.net, that amounts to $72,359. Granted, that’s only studio time in Copenhagen and actual production costs for the record (and doesn’t account for the all-important sweat equity). Still, less than $75k for an album that went on to sell millions of copies and launched stardom.
Steven Spielberg’s brilliant adaptation of Peter Benchley’s Jaws was reportedly made for $6 million, with a quarter of that spent on the titular munch machine. It was over-budget, threatened to ruin many careers, and one scene (the sunken-boat thriller) had to be re-filmed in somebody’s swimming pool. The results? The film literally frightened people out of the theater and went on to gross a half-billion dollars.
I once read that the manuscript for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for the U.S. market) was turned down by 31 agents around the United Kingdom. Yes, 31 people thought that book wouldn’t be “good enough” to represent.
Not everything is about money, of course. We can define success in other ways–or we can watch our dreams be slaughtered from behind vice-tinted glasses. But success won’t happen–it won’t, it won’t, it won’t–if you don’t put in the sweat equity. The late nights, the pacing, the hair-pulling, the coffee or tea, the “honest opinion” solicitations (oh yes, lots of those). It counts.
My son’s immensely talented soccer coach (who would dismiss the idea that he’s brilliant) is fond of saying how “it’s all about the effort.” The individual skill and talent and strategy all take a backseat to the effort. Put in the hard work and dedication, and you’ve done your job.
The one thing Metallica, Spielberg and Rowling have in common (besides creativity) is the labor they poured into projects they believed in. All that sweat equity in the face of doubt.
After all, you never know what could happen.