While we were making the new film I, Whiskey: The Human Spirit, we asked ourselves: how would the film end? I, Pencil had began with a memorable quotation. We would end I, Whiskey with a provocative one. Give the audience something to take with them. Or else, get in the last word; a sort of safety net, in case no one really got what the film was about.
“Freedom and Whisky go together” —Robert Burns
That was the first quote I considered for the film, when all we had was the title.
Lawson Bader said it the night he became president of CEI. “What a great quote.” I thought. “We should definitely put that in I, Whiskey.” But I rapidly dismissed it. Freedom? It wasn’t subtle enough. It didn’t fit the tone, or the story.
I began to draft the shooting script, finding a quote, the quote, became paramount. I chose,
“The light music of whiskey falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.” —James Joyce.
Now that said something. It was poetic. I loved it. Our director consented. It was of little importance to anyone but me.
A month later, I stood in the Strand holding a postcard.
“I still have a little whiskey left, and therefore a chance.” —Charles Bukowski.
Now that was a quote! Outrageous, backhanded wickedness! And it wouldn’t work at all. I didn’t even buy the postcard.
Editing the rough cut, my husband Drew Tidwell decided he hated Joyce. And without discussion, replaced it with,
“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” —Robin S. Sharma.
Who? Sure, it said everything we wanted to say, like a tidy thesis statement, but lacked any resonance. Who was Robin S. Sharma? It got Googled. Robin Sharma is a Canadian writer and leadership speaker, best known for his The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari series. At that point, we hoped no one would notice.
Andy Warhol then usurped Sharma with, “Good business is the best art.”
What the hell was Andy Warhol doing in this film? I do not dislike Warhol. One associates him, with a lot of things, art certainly, but not whiskey, or beneficial relationships, or business in our film’s sense of the word. I considered lobbying for Joyce again, or hell, even Bukowski.
Finally, somehow, someone at CEI suggested, “Freedom and Whiskey go together.” I had no idea the issue was still being debated. I had resigned myself to Warhol.
Freedom and Whiskey do go together! What had we been thinking? Why had we resisted it the whole time?
I wonder, had I put Burns in from the beginning, what quote would now conclude this film? This thought reveals something about the mysterious and inevitable evolution of ideas, as well as the necessity of that evolution.
There is no answer if there is no question.