You Don't Need Permission to Take a Seat at the Table

‘The Revenant’ tells the story of legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is brutally attacked and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. But more broadly, ‘The Revenant’ is about surviving against all odds in a harsh environment. In that sense, you might say it’s a lot like filmmaking.

“I was going through a difficult period in a way that I was trying to find something else and approach things in a different way and get out of my comfort zone….you have to be a little crazy to embark on a film like this,” admits Academy Award-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu early in ‘A World Unseen,’ an amazing new documentary about the making of ‘The Revenant.’

It took five years for Iñárritu to bring the film to life, but like Glass himself, the director persevered despite challenges faced along the way.

Against all odds

The lesson of determination is one filmmakers can relate to. So often, it seems, the obstacles mount in front of you until you fear the project will fall apart entirely. But it’s inspirational to see that even big name filmmakers like Iñárritu find themselves battling against all odds.

Speaking of inspiration, check out the amazing documentary and backstory below:

The film was the opportunity of a lifetime for Story & Heart filmmaker Ryan Booth who served as the film’s DP alongside fellow S&H filmmaker Jordy Wax, who was the production’s aerial filmmaker and first AC. For Ryan, getting to know Iñárritu, famed cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and some of the film’s talent, was inspirational — and not just in the way you might expect.

Talking in our recent Academy of Storytellers webinar, Ryan said he had previously believed that “star” directors such as Iñárritu were somehow preordained and that “regular” filmmakers like himself had to wait to be invited into the elite club.

He had assumed that A-list filmmakers were “this other class of people who get dropped out of the universe to make feature films...like there was something fundamentally different about people who make this narrative work at this level.”

But interacting with some of his filmmaking heroes showed him that there’s no secret formula to success in the industry.

Just grab that seat.

“If you want to do it, you don’t have to ask for a seat at the table. You just say ‘hey, I’m going to go grab that seat. I’m just going to go and do it.,’ said Ryan. “Hearing that literally from guys who have gotten a bunch of Academy awards and will probably scoop up a bunch of more was probably the most empowering thing from my entire career.”

The key takeaway from the life-changing experience, according to Ryan, is that perseverance is the key to creative and professional success.

In other words, with hard work and dedication, we can all tell amazing stories.

“There is not this expansive difference [between myself and ‘name directors’] other than time, experience, putting one foot in front of the other and continuing. You have to be committed to doing it for your entire career.”


To hear more from Ryan, and the other amazing panelists in our most recent Academy of Storytellers webinar, check out the AcademyofStorytellers.com.