When I was in Stockholm, I went to the Vasa. The guidebook explained that it was a 17th century war ship that sank on its maiden voyage, 1.5 km out of Stockholm’s harbour. Then in the late 1960s, it was rediscovered and raised from the depths. I thought, yeah, that sounds cool, let’s see it. When I stepped into the museum, my jaw dropped. You walk in to a vast hanger of a building, and inside is a colossal warship. You enter more or less at the height you would be on the quayside.
The site was awesome. And not in the Bill and Ted way, but a genuine sense of awe and wonderment that this ship a) had been built and b) had stayed at the bottom of the sea for over 400 years and c) had been restored to near perfect status. The ship is 95% original, even the sails have been restored (though they will never see another breath of wind). And the ship is VAST. It’s the size of a large office block.
However, before I get too much into the story of the Vasa, which you can find out on their website, here are the three thoughts that struck me.
1) It’s amazing what can be achieved through co-operation. This ship required hundreds of craftsmen, from carpenters to blacksmiths to weavers to leather tanners. Just like a feature film, the first thing you see is a magnificent achievement, then it takes you a while till you start breaking down all the hundreds of human hours from many different disciplines that made this possible…
2) …but it also must have required a vision, someone in command, to make the plans on paper come alive. Admittedly, the design of the Vasa was flawed (apparently the King insisted on two levels of guns, and the ballast wasn’t calculated quite right) but the point is, like Christopher Nolan on the set of Inception, you have to have had someone at the helm guiding the design of this. Someone making final decisions, authorising changes, making compromises that satisfied the client, the crew and the budget.
3) It takes time to learn a craft. The carvings are beautiful. The ironwork is fantastic. The individuals who worked on this project would have had years of experience, and also had months to build the ship. Too often, in the modern computer world, we are expected (and indeed expect ourselves) to learn a new computer programme within days, and deliver something crafted from it. We have to remember that film making, whether it’s camerawork, editing, animation or directing, are skills that need time and practice to develop. I’m not saying you can’t have an instinctive flair for these things, but we deserve time to get our projects right. It’s a shame our deadlines don’t always allow this!