The New Stuff

Strive for Authenticity, not Originality.


While watching classic films last night, I can’t help but envy those directors and writers who were born earlier. I mean, in their time there were still very few films and filmmakers. If they were born today, I thought, I’m sure they’d be struggling like me. Hitchcock might not be THE King of Suspense and Maya Deren would probably be Maya Who? I told myself “If only I were in the fifties, my stories would probably be original and people would notice me.” Probably. After thinking this, I reassured myself “but you’re in a much better time than those who’ll be born 100 years from now.” I cringed imagining what aspiring artist of the future will go through just to come up with something unique. I’m pretty sure every idea would be “cliche” and “so unoriginal” by then.

So it’s like who comes up with an IDEA and executes it first becomes the owner of that idea. Anyone who has the same idea is automatically a copycat, thief or plagiarizer.

There’s something wrong with this kind of thinking. If our only goal is to come up with original stories, then we would have a helluva hard time and we’re not even sure that our story would be original or good. If that’s one of our main concerns as an artist, then we are not at all free.

I’m sure most of us have seen The Hunger Games. If you’ve watched Battle Royale too, then I’m sure you can’t help but compare the two. The plot is 90% so the same. If you try to summarize the two, you would somehow come up with the same thing. But the details are very different. And what they’re trying to say are very different. Besides, the people-sent-to-an-island-to-kill-each-other plot has been done so many times before (Hello, Lord of the Flies!). Let’s not even talk about originality anymore. The Hunger Games is a rip-off of Battle Royale is a moot point.

Instead of trying to be original, it’s better if we focus on becoming authentic. Authenticity means coming up or taking ideas and using them in a way that it becomes your own, it becomes personal. It means that you turn it into something that’s part of you- your influences, your history, your views, your fears.

Worry less about being cool, unique, and novel. Worry more about how truthful and how “you” your work is. If your work is truthful, if you’re not aiming to become unique or famous, then your work is yours…and its honesty alone makes it beautiful.

Jim Jarmusch said it better:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’ ”

And here are some more quotes about authenticity:

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