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Tuesday, 10 May 2022


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Pricing. Writers and photographers aren't fully in charge of their pricing. Yes, we can ask what we like for our work, but we only get paid when others say yes to that price. However, I like the advice I've heard. Charge more, rather than less. At the least it weeds out the riff-raff.

Truly creative people don't want to be doing the same thing over and over, no matter how much other people like it. They get tired of writing about the same character. They get tired of doing that style or subject of photography.

After a while the money doesn't matter. I never believed this early in my so-called career, but it's true. If you have enough money for what you need, then you're free to take creative risks. Maybe Dan figured he'd milked it long enough. Maybe there was an opportunity we don't know about that didn't pan out. Maybe he regrets the choice. Or maybe his creative next big thing hasn't happened yet, and he's happy to be working on it.

Yes, as a Brit and a big fan of Downton Abbey I thought Dan Stevens was nuts for leaving. Very few actors are famous for lots of roles; some are lucky enough to be famous for just one; most are out of work. He should have milked it for as long as he could. AON apparently Alec Guinness hated playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but it made him a fortune as he was on a percentage.

I agree with the general drift of your column, but I think you sorta jumped the shark with Neil Young, of Neil Young fame (and also of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills Nash and Young fame.) So what if some young people don't know him; lots of young people don't know Franz Liszt, either.

[Yes. Neil is not a good example. Except that he really turned his back on his biggest success. Seems he was ambivalent about Harvest almost from the start. --Mike]

Young was sorta right. And the ditch trilogy is better. Can't listen to him on Spotify any longer (good for him...), but after Jan. 6 his song "Revolution Blues" is chilling...and prescient. And, yes, "young kids" do still listen, some avidly. Young is routinely mentioned as a touchstone by younger musicians. Truly a great one.

Do kids today know who Neil Young is?

Yes and no. He requested his library be removed from Spotify due to their support of a certain podcaster. Said caster's fans know of Young as an old man whom Dan Stevens Effected himself on Spotify.

Personally, I think Young made the right decision.

Valarie Harper in "Valerie" - "Valarie's Family" - "The Hogan Family".

Its the "self destruction" gene at work. Some people are just masters at it.

Sure the younger generation knows ‘Neil’… sort of…


Interestingly, Neil has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist and as a member of Buffalo Springfield, but not as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young).

On the other hand, sometimes an actor or writer abandons a lucrative effort and then has a change of heart and comes in from the cold in time. Consider Leonard Nimoy.

Music always played in the background of my classrooms as students worked on their Photoshop & Lightroom assignments. Unfortunately it was not Neil Young's guitar or voice coming out of the ceiling speakers. How very, very sad it was for this Cinnamon Girl.

I think this applies in other areas, too, e.g. motorsports, where drivers or riders jump teams between seasons, only to end up in a calamity: a new, problematical car or a bike that's not driveable or ride-able....happens all the time.

Just look what George Russell left Williams for, only arrive at Mercedes in a car that is practically undriveable. And may forever ruin his back over the course of this season.

And then there the fact that, George, as talented as he is, is not Valentino Rossi or Eddie Lawson, who were still able to win championships on "highly problematical" racing vehicles.

I’m pretty sure Chevy Chase (and you’re not him) did much better financially making movies than he would have had he stayed with SNL. So what is success?

Apparently he has higher standards than Maggie Smith.

For some reason this post reminded me of a Far Side cartoon. You know the one;
“I used to be somebody…big executive…my own company…and then one day someone yelled, ‘Hey! He’s just a big cockroach!’”

Huh. I just read an interesting story today about an actor who opted not to abandon the lucrative windfall and instead doubled down, though it meant turning down opportunities she'd once chased as an artist. Her success also came in a costume drama, though of a different kind:


I noticed Jeff Probst is still hosting the 143rd season of Survivor. Smart man.

I bought records from Neil Young before there were Neil Young records. Neil and Bruce Palmer worked at A&A Records in Toronto when they were in the Mynah Birds. Good band. Man Neil knew how to dress. The coolest looking guy in the store. I lost interest in his music after On The Beach. Our fathers were buddies at school in Winnipeg.

That's my 6 degrees of Neil.

[Very cool! I think that's actually 1 degree of separation, right? --Mike]

So...let me get this right...it's not okay to make enough money to last a lifetime doing mainstream dreck and then quit to enjoy doing what you think you might love? You are obligated to just stick the millions of dollars you've earned into a Christmas account and go on ad infinitum as an indentured servant of your fans?

Or maybe my reading comprehension is skewed...

[You've got it. An excellent case in point is the jazz drummer Charlie Watts, who continued playing in a lowbrow rock and roll band (that often used Satanist symbology and profanity in its lyrics) in order to support himself and underwrite his jazz. Or like certain photographers continue to accept commercial jobs-for-hire in order to support their real focus, which is their camera-buying habits. It's logical, and makes perfect sense, really. --Mike]

Just 3 of my many favorites from Neil Young, great guitar on “Down by the River”, the lyrics on “Old Man” and “When you dance I can really love” are just some of the best ever written and sung by a legend. I feel blessed to have grown up in that era of Rock and Roll, the late 60’s and early 70’s, WOW !!!!

George Lazenby. He played James Bond once then quit.

[And strangely, I think his was the only Bond film I ever saw. Wasn’t it “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”? I might have seen one other one, but I don’t remember it. —Mike]

You might be surprised by what kids listen to these days. For example, my niece loves Pink Floyd. I was not familiar with the album Sleeps with Angels. Thanks for the heads up on that one. Here’s a great quote from the ditch where Neil is talking to Rolling Stone in 1975. It seems he wasn’t all that concerned with returning to fame or popularity.

“Nobody expected Time Fades Away and I'm not sorry I put it out…I didn't need the money, I didn't need the fame. You gotta keep changing. Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I'd rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that's the price, I'll pay it. I don't give a shit if my audience is 100 or 100 million. It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm convinced that what sells and what I do are two completely different things. If they meet, it's coincidence.” (From the Rolling Stone website)

Always start with a high price. You can come down but you can't go up

Dan Stevens starred in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast. OK, he wasn't very recognisable, but I'll bet he got a shedload of money for it. And he's stayed regularly employed in TV, so I imagine he reckons he did OK. And as for the endless "Let's drag Downton out for another run around the block" thing - not good.

Regarding Neil Young, buried in "Old Man" is a great line that explains Neil's general philosophy on putting on a facade to impress others: "Doesn't mean that much to me, to mean that much to you."

It takes supreme confidence to not worry about what others think.

The documentary "Twenty Feet From Stardom" has some interesting things to say about the relationship between talent and ambition in achieving major stardom in popular music.
Not hard to see why a rational person with more money than they can ever spend might walk away.

Re Dan Stevens and his subsequent "lacklustre" career: my wife and I saw him perform on Broadway opposite Jessica Chastain in "The Heiress" - to great acclaim. A quick internet check shows he's appeared in many, many shows, movies and plays over the years as well. Maybe he did just want to take control of his own career and his Downton status allowed him to do so. Also, it seems to me that only one young unknown from Downton Abbey achieved major, breakout status and that person is Lily James, who starred in one of the Mamma Mia movies as the young Meryl Streep character. Michelle Dockery has done well too, but in a more low key way.

“Well, I’d look pretty daft doing this at forty- wouldn’t I?”
-Mick Jagger

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned any famous photographers who fall into this category. Maybe because most of them tend to keep at it for a very long time? The one who does is, of course, Robert Frank, who creates perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century and then decides to chuck still photography for film making -- spending years producing films that maybe 27 people have ever watched. Have never understood that....

I think Joni Mitchell should be mentioned here. Very successful back in the '60s. A true artist who followed her muse and ignored expectations. Seems to me that's the very best use an artist can make of success...and very hard for many to do.

Aren’t people just the most interesting and unpredictable? They keep the world (as we live it) on its toes. In broad terms, all these people achieve “success” and then some respond to it in confounding (to the rest of us) ways.

I try not to get too judgmental about how people live their lives. I’ve made choices that had others, on the outside, scratching their heads and muttering, “What the…?!?” Personally, I call that a good thing. Personally, I don’t want to be too predictable. And, so, yes, I’ve made some changes, big and small, pretty much just for the sake of change. Why not? Is it right for everyone, then? Well, YMMV. All I know is it’s right for me. Everyone else is on their own.

And, fortunately, I’ve reached the age (66) and status (retired) where I just don’t give a damn what others think of my choices. I’m not, IMO, obnoxious or an ass. I smile, I chat with the cashiers, I say “Hi, Pooch!” to dogs I encounter on walks. But I also chuckle when I come across people who fret and fuss about how others perceive them. But they don’t impact my life one iota. So I just go about my life and they do the same.

“Up on Housing Project Hill, it’s either fortune or fame.
You must choose one or the other,
though neither are to be what they claim.” - B. Dylan

“She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.” - B. Dylan

I'm pretty sure this same concept applies to all sorts of things beyond artists and creatives. I know plenty of people, myself included, who have had 'success' and plenty of future potential or opportunity in jobs, relationships, etc., only to throw it away to chase something else.

The reasons for why this happens vary, but include changing your mind or heart, becoming bored with your situation, believing you can do better (either because of your drive, or ego), and sometimes just a character trait that causes you blow up things when they are really going in your favor.

Sometimes it works out, sometimes it leads to a lifetime of regret.

The one thing most everyone discounts, however, is the role luck or coincidence play in our success. We all like to stoke our ego and believe we alone made our success, but too often that cannot bring about new and improved outcomes when we try to move on to bigger/better things.

Conan Doyle basically just got sick of writing about Holmes and Watson. I don't see it is any more than that. Perfectly understandable. Just as some bands hate to play their greatest hit. I can't imagine being in the Eagles and having to play Hotel California. A great song, but I never want to hear it again. Or Alex Trebek over 30 years on Jeopardy - god, the boredom. I haven't read the White Company, but the Lost World, and the Adventures of Brigadier Gerard are two of the most enjoyable books ever written and in the case of Gerard, excellent history too.

Dan Stevens did go on to do The Heiress on Broadway with Jessica Chastain. Not too shabby. You should look him up on IMDB. It's not as if he's not been working. He's been a busy lad. 39 projects since leaving Downtown Abbey plus stage work.

My favorite Neil Young song is Helpless. CSNY did a version but k.d.lang's version is the best.
I worked on a k.d.lang interview where she related why she didn't capitalize her name. She thought that it was presumptuous.

Discovering Neil Young was quite significant to me. My parents were into country music, and it didn't do anything for me. I remember they were watching an episode of "Austin City Limits," and this guy came out and sang a couple of songs. He was completely different from anyone I'd ever seen before. He really blew me a away! That man was Neil Young. It was the first time I ever really liked music.


Big 'ditch' fan, am I. Love On the Beach. And, tangentially, Higgs Boson Blues.


I pulled Maisel's Light, Color, Gesture off my bookshelf about a week ago, promptly put it back and pulled out William Albert Allard's The Photographic Essay. And Cartier-Bresson's The Man, the Image & The World. Spent the week with both.

But don't worry, pulled out Light, Gesture & Color just now. Thanks for the reminder.

I think I might own all three thanks to TOP.

Peace and all that,

Ah yes, Ego & Stupidity combine to sink many careers.
NYPD Blue had David Caruso as the lead Detective the first two seasons. Then he got a big head and moved on - and basically disappeared. Odd watching him as he always held his head at one particular angle - looked uncomfortable. Guessing an agent of photographer told hime "this is your good side" - but he looked odd with it.

So he got greedy and moved on and is mostly forgotten.

One consideration - it’s probably easier to judge a given artist’s contribution in hindsight, rather than in the middle of all the hype.

As with how you assess photos (pin on the board for 5 days) - some have staying power, some don’t. You won’t know that staying power straight away.

Can you say of the current crop of new musicians, actors, photographers etc who will make a lasting contribution?

To Daniel,
Have you not seen David Caruso on CSI Miami, for several seasons. Still did that thing with the head angle.

Regarding David Caruso and his funny head angle, I think it was his special ‘actor look’. Anyone remember the character in Get Shorty who had a similar special look? :o) .

“Sometimes you just have to be who you are, do what you can do, and give the people what they want.”

This is confusing for me. I take the main issue to be that for some, being who they are, who they have to be, means not giving the people what they want. And conversely, giving the people what the want means being inauthentic.

Some people can’t tolerate being inauthentic for very long, no matter how externally successful it makes them.

I have to agree with Miguel. Watching Dan Stevens in Legion, I thought he was great. In fact, I completely forgot that I had also enjoyed him in Downton Abbey. If quitting Downton allowed him to star in Legion, I'm glad he did.

Another Dan Stevens supporter chiming in here. I think the effect Mike is describing should be named after someone else. DS left a soap opera where he wasn't getting a huge payday and in a role that by definition didn't offer growth as an actor in order to take on new roles and get a payday from time to time. American television actors can get pretty wealthy, but the same generally isn't true in the UK. Hugh Laurie said the craft services budget on House, M.D. was bigger than a typical British television program's entire budget. Hyperbole, sure, but maybe not too much. Maybe the Downton cast got nice paychecks for the film, but I doubt any of them got rich.

Dan went on to do many projects, as others above have pointed out. And he hasn't been playing the same character. I'm certain he is very pleased with his career choice.


This happens infrequently in other fields too, such as in science. A scientist becomes successful early in one area, then he/she leaves it and starts another area, leaves it again after a while, to move on to new fields every few years. Such people are recognized either as pioneers or as dilettantes, depending on how profound their relative contributions were. This suits these people quite well because by nature they abhor authorities. They get bored and choose to move on to more exciting things. It's the journey that counts for them.

One possibility no one has mentioned: sometimes there's a toxic relationship on set and someone just really needs to get away from it. They may not be able to talk about it without sinking their career, so it looks like they just arbitrarily walked away. I suspect this happens quite often in the dramatic arts.

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