Going home …

Your heart’s beating wildly, your blood pressure increases, your mouth becomes uncomfortably dry and you have an almost irresistible urge to avoid whatever is about to happen. You’re about to take a risk—to step into the unknown—and that’s scary.

Some people are risk-averse. Some are reckless. It takes nerve—and confidence—to take the kind of creative risks that Sacramento filmmaker Joe Carnahan has taken. Ten years ago, Carnahan had nothing but a breakthrough film at the Sundance Festival called Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. But then he hit Hollywood’s big time with Narc.

In Sacramento this month for the opening of his latest movie, Smokin’ Aces, Carnahan found himself at the same time praised as the “godfather of the Sacramento film scene” and cursed for having turned his back on the people who knew him in the early days. As Jonathan Kiefer observes in this week’s cover story, “Joe Carnahan’s crossroads,” everyone here wants either a piece of him or to take a swipe at him.

As Kiefer so astutely tells us, Carnahan stands today at a crossroads. It takes guts to keep pushing. Will he keep rehashing the same old fare in a play for safety? Or will he push forward in new creative directions? Can he go home to his Sacramento roots?

No doubt Carnahan understands this advice from Alan Alda: “Laugh at yourself, but don’t aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.”

It’s good guidance for all of us. I’ve wished for greater courage in my life, but I have been bold enough to go into unexplored territory more than a few times, including climbing a mountain in a near-whiteout blizzard, traveling halfway around the world to live in a country cottage in Northern Ireland, and taking on jobs that few were willing to tackle.

What I’ve learned from taking those chances is that when you step out over the edge of the cliff, you step out alone and there’s no going back. And with each risk—win or lose, succeed or fail—you’re forever changed. So no, Carnahan, you cannot go home again. Don’t even try.