What would you say are the three most memorable movie scenes in cinematic history? My answer would be: (1) The chariot race in Ben-Hur; (2) Moses parting the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments; and (3) Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.
When I recently re-viewed these classic films on DVD, I watched some of the special features accompanying the films and did some research on the Internet Move Database (imdb.com – a fabulous resource). In the process I learned some fascinating facts about these famous scenes:
(1) The Ben-Hur chariot race occupied about 12 minutes of the movie, but required five weeks to shoot. The scene holds the record for film-shot-to-film-used ratio: 268:1. For every 268 feet of celluloid used to shoot the scene, only one foot of film was included in the final cut.
(2) More than 300,000 gallons of water was poured into a tank to create the special effects for The Ten Commandments Red Sea parting scene. Then the film was played in reverse to create the illusion. (To this day the tank remains on the Paramount studio grounds.)
(3) Although the When Harry Met Sally orgasm scene occupied but three minutes of the movie, it took an entire day to film until director Rob Reiner felt it was just right.
These facts tell me that sometimes it takes lots of tries and angles before you get something right – but when you eventually do get what you want, the final product is awesome.
Let’s take relationships, for example. Many of us have gone through a bunch of them. Some of us might be critical of ourselves for not getting it right the first (or the tenth) time. You might think there is something wrong with you for not being able to stick it out "until death do us part." Or you might think you have a faulty "picker." Or the universe suffers from lack and is unable to provide you with a sufficient supply of healthy or available partners. ("The odds are good but the goods are odd." Or, "All the good ones are taken or gay.")
Yet if you look at your relationships, or similarly your career path, as a journey rather than a destination, you can see that every experience has served to build your consciousness to the point where you can attract more and more of what you want. And if you create a relationship or career that really works, you can thank all of those that didn’t work for contributing to your learning curve toward what ultimately serves you.
The story is told of a woman who recognized Pablo Picasso in an open-air market in Nice in 1959. Being a huge fan, the woman approached Picasso and asked him if he would be willing to do a charcoal sketch of her, for which she would be happy to pay him.
Picasso studied the woman for a few moments and agreed. The two found a table at a sidewalk cafe, Picasso took out his materials, and went to work. The woman was in ecstasy! Fifteen minutes later he turned the pad around and showed the lady his finished work. It was spectacular – an authentic Picasso, and of her!
The woman clutched the portrait and thanked the master profusely. She opened her purse, removed her checkbook, and asked, "How much will that be?"
"Five thousand dollars," Picasso answered in a matter-of-fact voice.
The woman’s jaw dropped. "But, sir, with all due respect, the picture took you only 15 minutes to draw."
"No, madam," he answered quite seriously. "You don’t understand. The painting took me eighty years and 15 minutes to draw."
So it is that greatness is built – not overnight or in a flash, but through the steady development of skill, consciousness, and heart. If you want to produce a great scene in your life, whether it’s a movie, a marriage, a business or spiritual mastery, you may have to walk through many takes to get there. But when you do, what a scene it will be!
Meanwhile, enjoy the takes as they show up. The directors of the movies above could have taken shortcuts, settled for less than excellence, or walked off the set when they didn’t get it right the first time. But they remained true to the Big Picture. They held a powerful vision of how they wanted it to turn out, they knew they would know it when they hit on it – and they did.
You have supremely memorable scenes developing in your life that will long outlive the time and effort it took to get there. When audiences talk about the chariot race, the Red Sea parting, or the orgasm scene, they think little of the ride it took to get to those destinations. Yet the directors savor those scenes above all else because they knew the journey required to arrive. The final cut is yours, and a classic one it will be.