آمارشناس

کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 60

آمارشناس

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  • زمان مطالعه 3 دقیقه
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Statistician

Toward the end of Breaking Bad, I was deluged with scripts, and I had to devise a way to sift through, a system to evaluate them. In order of importance I weighed: story, script, role, director, and cast.

Here’s what the system looks like:

Here’s how several projects scored: Argo: 19. Trumbo: 17. All the Way: 20. The Infiltrator: 15. Why Him?: 14. Godzilla: 15. Wakefield: 16.

The baseline is always the story. Good storytelling is timeless. It’s the essential human art form. Civilians might look at a script and see a monologue of several pages and be scared by it. I could never memorize that. An actor reads it differently. Actors feast on challenging language. We are nourished by words. Role and director are important, of course, but story is essential. If the story isn’t compelling and the writing isn’t well constructed, it doesn’t matter how great the character is. A legendary director like Ridley Scott is helming a project? But the story is eh? Might be a no. Although that combination would be rare. Great storytellers know great scripts.

The criterion of cast/misc is a catchall. How supportive is the studio? Do I have a history with anyone attached? Is there someone involved with whom I’ve always wanted to work? So many things can and do come into play.

One criterion not on the scale, however, is money. I figure my agents are incentivized to make the best deal they can, so whatever they’re happy with, so am I. Money is simply not a key factor in choosing projects. I never want to make a creative decision based on financial need. I keep my lifestyle within my means so I don’t have to do that.

Of course, every now and then, an offer comes up that’s too good to refuse. Like the Super Bowl in 2015.

I was asked to shoot an Esurance commercial that would have a one-time airing during the game and then never be played again on television. A woman comes in to see her pharmacist and instead she encounters Walter White behind the counter. It was funny, and it paid a lot. A ridiculous amount. I thought I would be a fool not to take it. Accepting a commercial like that makes it possible for me to do super-low-budget passion projects.

I’ve been dead broke, and I’ve been rich, and rich is better. But now that money is less of an issue for me, I’m mostly about the quality of the work and the experience.

Once, Warren Buffett visited the Breaking Bad set to tape a sketch that would be played at his annual gathering of stockholders. The financial guru played a version of Heisenberg opposite Aaron Paul and me. A funny bit. On a break, I asked the same question that everyone asks Warren: What’s your secret? Oh, it’s no secret, he said in his affable homespun way. Just make more right decisions than wrong ones and you’ll be fine.

The Cranston Assessment of Project Scale—CAPS, if you like—embodies that principle. I’m going to make mistakes. But the idea is to give myself the best chance to make more good decisions in the face of an overwhelming number of choices.

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