Jon Landau: "No one ever got fired for not trying something"

Participating on a panel at the Producers Guild of America, IdeaFestival 2010 presenter Jon Landau, co-producer of Titanic and Avatar, suggested that it's harder than ever, in an era of budgetary squeezes, to get studios back bold ideas.

The complaints echoed across other panels as well. 'Trying to get a big studio to embrace new ideas is not easy,' said 'Avatar' producer Jon Landau in a discussion about transmedia. 'No one ever got fired for not trying something.'

Sound familiar? Here's my suggestion:

Anyone preparing to pitch that bold new idea would do well to study Robert Frost, who said that "a poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness."

By that I think he meant that new ideas, truly new ideas, require a faith language, an appeal that references possibility rather than business spreadsheets or patterns we recognize from past experience, because the fact is no one knows in advance how such commitments will turn out. The numbers may or may not add up. And not trying something may seem like the safest option.

The breakthrough that can be neatly summarized in advance is no breakthrough.

When Landau comes to Louisville, I think I'll ask him if he's ever attended a meeting where a big idea hung in the balance and simply read "Mending Wall," from which two emotionally charged lines say

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down."