Perseverance & How to Develop It

16mm, b/w and color, sound, 14:00, 2003

Perseverance & How to Develop It takes the viewer on a journey through obsession, the drive for success, 1915 self-help tricks, and strikes at the Ford Motor Company. The film explores how the growth of industry in the 20th century relied on self-help to instill a drive for success in young workers. Perseverance & How to Develop It was a book published in 1915. Its concluding chapter, "Practical Exercises," outlined five tasks to be practiced on a daily basis. Untangling yarn, counting grains of rice, measuring oneself against a watch--these tasks made for success, by disciplining the mind and body. These exercises bear a striking resemblance to movements along an assembly line.

Perseverance’s publication came at the same time as the perfection of the Ford Motor Company assembly line. In the same period, Sigmund Freud wrote "On Mourning and Melancholia," describing a phenomenon which we now call depression. The appearance of these texts--at the height of American industrialization and World War I--was not a coincidence. To become a productive member of society, whether working in the city or preparing for war, a young man needed to manage his moods and develop self-control. The same issues come into play today. Workaholism, the widespread use of psycho-pharmaceutical drugs, self-help books, and an insatiable quest for happiness all resonate with Perseverance, written nearly 100 years ago. The cycle of work, success, depression, and back to work, continues to this very day.


Cast: Pablo Helguera, Tami Jantzi, Terry Perlin, Suzanne Wasserman

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