I don't really care how much the latest superhero film took at the box office, although I'd probably know if you asked me. When I watch a film the main thing I am looking for is a good story. I like it when I look up at the big screen and can see a part of me staring back at me. More than anything, I am still looking for Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder in every film I see.
Friday 12 November 2010
Dealing With Criticism
Here's a question from a blogger member called filmmusic100, who writes this new blog. Although I have such a big heart for filmmaking, I cannot sugarcoat that its environment is harsh. I personally think that filmmakers should not be criticized for their film because little is known of how much work, effort, and time they put into it, and no one can really understand enough how much a filmmaker loves what he/she does. But I know that criticizing isn't gonna disappear and, in a way, it is needed. I want to know how, if you had been criticized for your work, you deal with it and how you react to other people judging your scripts?
This is a great question. And before I write a bunch of answers - let me first say, I don't really know what I'm talking about. Sometimes I feel invincible, and sometimes criticism can wreck me. It's a strange thing. There have been times where people have slammed my work in a big way and I've handled it incredibly, and then other times I've had a conversation with my Brother where he says something like "Do you really think the line about the fish is worth having?" and I've gone a bit insane and convinced myself I should give up altogether; and what he said wasn't even criticism it was just a question about a fish. Another thing to remember is that even Shawshank Redemption has its critics. There are people out there that think it sucks. The difference is that when you're starting out, you don't have that buffer of success, accolades and dollars. You just have you, and people telling you you're terrible. But the critics are there every step of the way. But if you're getting criticism; you're doing something RIGHT. If nobody is criticising you, then you're probably not doing very good work.
To be truly creative, is to do things that haven't be done before - or at least, to do them differently. So of course, when you're doing something that hasn't been seen before; people are initially uncomfortable with it and they like to criticise it. The problem is that, after you've heard criticism enough times, it becomes internalized in a really strong way. Think about it. You're a writer, or a director, or an actor. And from the age of four or whatever, you're made to do Maths. You're made to stand in line. But you wanna write a story or you want to do a little drawing. And pretty soon you're fourteen and people are saying "what do you want to do with your life?" and you can't say writer or artist or actor because people will laugh at you because it's not real work, or because it's too competitive, or whatever it is that your teachers/friends/society project onto it. Then you're eighteen -- and you're doing your drawings or making your short films or writing your stories; but you're shy about it, because society is telling you to learn more about Maths or go and do a degree with an 'ology' in it. Our society doesn't support creativity. Society thinks that if you're up at 4am writing down ideas, you've got a sleeping problem, they don't think that you've got a problem in act three or a problem getting the right shading on your drawing.
So when everyone around you finds it hard to support you, you're going to find it hard to support yourself. Standing up and saying "I am a film director" is HARD. Everyone thinks you're insane, or dreaming. Worst of all, they see dreaming as bad!?!?!
Every time I read a bad review it bothers me not because I think the critic is wrong but because secretly I think they're right. "How did the lady from the Bergen County Shopper's Guide get it right but not the guy from the New York Times."
Creator of THE WEST WING, Writer of THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Meanwhile you want to write a movie about giraffes who land on Mars, or you want to be an actor even though you have a strange face, or you want to write a novel about flowers--- but you look around you and all the actors look like Megan Fox or Jude Law, and the people giving seminars say there's no market for Mars giraffes and your friends keep telling you only old people will read a book about flowers. The point is -- it's hard! We've been socialized this way and it is difficult. It's difficult for people to support what we do, because they don't understand, and because they wish they could do what you do, and because they can't comprehend how a book about flowers or a movie about giraffes that land on Mars will inspire people. THAT'S YOUR JOB. Your job is to show people the world through the eyes of you; you'll give them a different angle. That's what artists do. Make us see our lives in a different way, or help give us some release from our complicated jobs, relationships, and lives.
People will criticise you and you'll criticise yourself. But then, so does everyone else. And you probably criticise people too in ways you don't even realise. Just remember; there will always be criticism. And people will always disagree with what you do, or have an opinion, right up until they point they love what you do.