Men Of Mica

September 28, 2007

In the olden days, about 200,000 years ago, before Mankind had developed the thumb and intelligence to operate a TV remote, a guy named Twain wrote a few books. In one of them, Roughing It (1872) he described his journey across America. He was heading west to get rich by digging for gold. He was 37 and had literally no experience digging for anything.

Twain was with 3 other men, one of whom, Ballou, actually was an old, well-seasoned miner. One evening the group made camp beside a stream in the Nevada mountains. On a hunch Twain snuck off on his own and made a quick survey of the stream bed. He was right; it was literally glittering with gold. He stuffed handfuls of the stuff into his pockets and strolled nonchalantly back into camp just in time to hear Ballou proclaim, "There's no gold around here, boys. We need to keep moving on."

In jubilant glee Twain threw his treasure down in front of them all. "No gold!?" he cried. "Take a look at that!"

Ballou glanced at the mess of gravel at his feet and said, "That's nothing but granite rubbish and nasty, glittering mica that isn't worth ten cents."

Twain, feeling sheepish, but still unable to let the opportunity for pontificating go to waste, stated, "Well, I guess all that glitters is not gold."

Ballou corrected him. "No, you idiot. Nothing that glitters is gold."

And then Twain wrote:

So I learned that gold in its natural state is dull, unornamental stuff, and that only the lesser metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica.

Why do I relate this ancient anecdote right now? Perhaps it was spurred by the pang of regret I feel in realizing that I too am guilty of this; that I made some of my fictitious friends at Gestation men of gold when they were really men of mica.

I may take a break from blogging this dead horse now. Before I do let me suggest that this observation from Mark Twain has great resonance for those in, or contemplating entering, the film business. The men of mica are everywhere. Sometimes we make them into men of gold to ease our insecurities about them; because we need to believe they are strong, talented, honest, powerful, intelligent, motivated and productive.

But, most of the time we make this error because seeing things as they really are in this business is terrifying; and very, very difficult.

Hey Matt,
Thanks very much for your note. You are right, there is no chance Delirious will play near you. I am very sorry about that. I think the film had as good a chance of reaching audiences as Into The Wild. I have learned somethings about my distributor though. The head of the company was arrested by the FBI last month and is under house arrest for bank fraud. So, some of the mystery as to why my film was handled the way it was has been cleared up.
I was amazed by the piece that Ebert wrote. Independent film is in a very tough spot and support from people like him means a lot.
My best to you,
I read the article on and wanted to say that I am saddenned by the lack of support you’ve received for your film. Since I live in Jackson, MS there is absolutely zero percent chance of seeing actually good movies. I plan on catching it on dvd when the chance arises.
Thanks Chris. It has been a pleasure. Best to your husband; I’d be thrilled for Delirious to grace his birthday.
Chris W
I’m still hoping it’ll show up at the theater sometime in the next couple of months–it can take a godawful long time for films to get to us. But if not, it’s good to know I can look forward to the DVD in February–heh, my husband’s birthday is that month, and I never know what to get him!
Good writing on the new script!
Hello Victor M,
Thanks for the news of San Sebastian. It is truly a filmlover’s festival. I think it also reflects something wonderful about the Spanish people themselves–the festival is warm, welcoming and full of heart.
Ahhh, but the jury process. I could tell you stories, caballero. I could tell you stories.
Hello Chris,
Yeah, movin’ on. I’m so pleased you enjoyed my ramblings. I’ve enjoyed rambling. I also enjoyed our exchanges. I’ll be checking in frequently and may even crack open a blog or two.
I wish you could see Delirious projected but it seems you may have to wait for the DVD release sometime in February.
Again, my best to you.
Chris W
I was hoping by now I’d be able to report that Delirious was on the Michigan Theater schedule, but alas, they just put up only a tentative October schedule and it isn’t fleshed out yet. Stupid Elizabeth: the Golden Age!! (Disclaimer: I know nothing about the film, and I actually love historical movies, but it does seem to take up an extraordinary number of slots on the October schedule)
Anyway, I have really enjoyed the blog and will keep checking back to see if you have left more pearls of…er, wisdom, but it’s good to move on to the next thing.
Hello Tom. A little information: The 55 San Sebastian Film Festival has finished right now here in Spain and the new Silver Shell for best director goes to Nick Broomfield(Battle for Haditha). The jury prize for best screenplay goes to John Sayles(Honeydripper) shared with Gracia Querejeta and Daniel Planell(Siete mesas de billar francés).And the Golden Shell for best film goes to “A thousand years of good prayers” directed by Wayne Wang.
Every year there are great films here, you know perfectly.
Hey Will,
I beat you to it. Just ordered it from Amazon. That way maybe you’ll see some residuals. Also ordered the Pretty and Twisted cd you recommended. But thanks very much for the offer.
The amazing thing about Roughing It is the way Twain uses a kind of self-deprecating humor to relate things of huge importance; as if he’s really just a stumbling fool. So different from self-obsessed “visionaries” of today. My favorite quote from Tarantino: “Anybody who’s ever read a book about me knows my hardon for movies originated in the womb…”
Also, Twain’s description of America is surreal. You really feel you are there in this strange land before cars, roads; anything remotely resembling civilization. I highly recommend it.
I told my producer about what you discovered at Momentum UK and he’s “looking into it.”
Hey Tom,
Sounds like Roughing It would be a good book to get hold of. The idea that misconception is something we use to boost our confidence is very interesting.
Do you have a PO Box address or something? Would love to send you a copy of the Johnette CD. My email is

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician