Not surprising that Orson would say something like this – he spent his life chasing money for his film projects, and had to adjust his vision and refine his work based on the limitations this “hustling” required. But this statement is more than a reaction to that situation, it is also a true one… because the quote means exactly what it says: unlimited options and choices in a creative endeavor is not a good thing – it’s a very very bad one.
Let’s compare Orson Welles to another filmmaker… A gentleman you may have heard of. George Lucas directed Star Wars in 1976 with an incredible number of constraints – limited time to shoot, an initially non-existent special effects team, and a group of young actors who had never starred in a movie before. His initial cut was a disaster, and his friends Steven Spielberg, Brian DePalma, and Francis Ford Coppola (some good friends for a filmmaker to have) gave him great feedback on how to “fix” the movie – his wife Marcia, who edited the final film, also provided great ideas. Which he did and the movie was, as we all know, a monster success.
Then, years later, Lucas was completely in charge and he wrote and directed the prequels. Money, as they say, was no object, and the special effects team he founded and built out of a garage was now capable of visualizing and giving Lucas ANYTHING. The result were three films that were nowhere near as good as the original movie, and the lack of any checks created something far from the type of “art” that is possible in cinema (and yes I consider the original Star Wars and it’s sequel “art.”)
I manage creative designers, and if you gave them unlimited time and money they would go CRAZY – the limits forces the most important thing any creative mind needs: focus. And as a user experience practitioner I also know that unlimited choices leads to “analysis paralysis”, and people often don’t make ANY choice when that happens – creative or otherwise.
Therefore, limitations and constraints are a good thing – and Orson discovered this long before many of us even thought of it. Smart man.