Vail Daily columnist Warren Miller: I’m so busy sleeping’s a waste of time
Ryan Summerlin September 22, 2012
As I have gotten older, I always thought I would be living in a house somewhere in Sun City, Ariz., or Palm Springs, Calif., playing bridge and shuffleboard with a bunch of old grey-haired people, many of whom would be on walkers.
I’ve been wrong about a lot of things in my life, but on this, it could not be any further from the truth.
My wife, Laurie, and I live quite an active life on our sleepy island. There are just not enough hours in any day of the week to get done what I want to get done.
I think that if I were in the pharmaceutical business, I would invent a pill of some kind that eliminated the need for any more than four hours of sleep a night. As much as I try to avoid it, I spend far too much time just sleeping, or “catching a few Z’s,” as I tend to call it. What a colossal waste of time sleeping is.
I have found that in the past few years of my retirement, while accounting for all the time in my life, I have become increasingly excited about writing my autobiography. I see it as a bio of interest to my wife and children, and I hope to a few more people who might like to know more about the history of skiing. And also, for readers to learn about the guy who used to stand up in front of them one or two nights a year and take them on a cinematic ride to new and exciting places, where someone had begged and borrowed enough money to build a rope tow that eventually grew into a ski resort.
In going through a ton and a half of old correspondence for the autobiography, I ran across a pidgin English letter that was written on an upright typewriter years ago from someone in Russia. He had the letter smuggled out of Russia in the late 1950s.
He somehow had acquired a 16mm copy of one of my films and was translating it into Russian to show his friends. He used the same method I used to show my films in America and Canada in those days – standing up and narrating the show live.
He had been able to almost replicate my musical score on a tape recorder and just wanted to know if it bothered me that he was doing this. It didn’t matter whether I cared or not because there was no way for me to ask for a percentage. I just wished him well and to keep me posted. I think that somehow he managed to pull it off and did the same thing with some later films.
I have always had the same business model. Rather than try and get a percent of a later deal, pay me for my time and trouble of making the movie and good luck to you. I did have a guy for a couple of years showing my movies all over Europe and Australia, and he reported that he was barely making his travel expenses, and a tiny profit.
I caught up with him in Arosa, Switzerland, one night when he had to show the film for three nights in a row to accommodate the crowd. A letter followed, from Australia, that he was doing standing-room-only shows there. I guess it’s easy when you are a promoter, such as he was, when you don’t have to worry about the success of the film as the filmmaker. He never did pay me much, though he did have some good success.
This really came into focus for me one night in San Francisco when a ski club put on my film and reported a couple of hundred empty seats. As I was there at the time, I know we held up the show for 20 minutes while we laid 20 bucks on the fire marshal to let people sit in the aisle. It was standing-room only, and I switched promoters after the show.
I always feel that 99 people out of a hundred are honest, but we all, on occasion, run into the 1 percent who are not.
I had a great time bettering my movies each time I had the opportunity to make another. I produced my annual 90-minute ski film, and in addition, I also produced as many as 10 half-hour advertising films a year.
I recently uncovered a record of the many films I made with the help of Don Brolin and a staff of great people that numbered over 600 films. Doing business with that many clients, camera operators and promoters, I think my batting average was almost 1,000 percent.
I had one cameraman for a few years whose wife was a stewardess, so he was able to fly free. He wound up flying to some off-the-beaten-path destinations for me to places such as Israel, Greece, Scotland, etc. All of that footage is sitting in a warehouse somewhere in Colorado, and the memory of all of those things happening are buried somewhere in my brain.
As I continue working on my book, I wonder why it is I can remember someone’s name from my first trip to Europe in 1953, but I sometimes forget my own cell phone number.
Maybe some scientist with a pharmaceutical background is out there working on a pill that will put energy back in your system without sleep, and not be harmful to your health.
If someone could have invented the electronic computer-cell phone era 60 years ago, who knows where we would be today? This makes me wonder what kind of a life my grandchildren will be living when they are my age.
Make the best use of the time you have, especially in retirement.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years, and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to more than 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto warrenmiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to www.warren