Thursday, October 1, 2009

Everyone's a Critic

I'm on both sides of the aisle on this issue. I give and I receive. So let's talk about receiving since it's not more blessed.

Anytime you put your writing... your art out there for people to view, there will be those who criticize the work. If anyone tells you they're immune, they're lying. They might be able to handle it better, but it is never easy.

My personal take is that when criticism bothers me, it's a clear indication my Ego (flesh) is involved. And I can't make the flesh feel better. I've got to find the root and kill it. For instance, on an early movie I did, I had a reviewer not only rip the movie, but attacked me pretty hard. I puffed up looking for a fight. But why did his words bother me? Because there's some truth there. There were some big problems in the movie. Once I can embrace the truth, I can learn and improve.

If somebody makes outlandish claims (in others words, far from truth), it is more likely to not bother me. And I can even laugh. But the hook is where a barb buries deep, and finds some truth down there to catch. never the whole truth, but enough to sting.

Also, I can allow the critics to get under my skin when I was expecting one thing and got another. For instance, there was a guy who did something for a movie of mine, then later I found out he wrote movie reviews. I thought for sure he'd understand what we were doing. Boy was I wrong. If I didn't have the expectations, his review wouldn't have bothered me at all. i would have definitely laughed it off. And later I could.

Now, not everything is to laugh off. I've gotten hard critique that is good. It's something I can work on. That's not fun. But I also get critique from someone who just doesn't get it. And in the end, obviously I wasn't making the movie for him.

The more I chase Purpose, the less Ego I have and the more I can use criticism as a tool and not feel it as a weapon.

Now let's get to the "giving" part. I often have people ask me to critique their work. And nine times out of ten, this person is really looking for affirmation, not constructive criticism. Even when I remind them of this and they give me the "oh I want the truth, I want to grow and improve," I've still seen bridges set on fire.

For instance, a new filmmaker, from the Christian filmmakers arena, sent me his movie and asked me for some critique. I watched the movie-- I really try to do the old "sandwich" approach and give them something good, then something to work on, and finish with something else good. We were real thin on bread there. I gave what I could and limited the "workings" and still this person was extremely offended. They had shot on standard definition, mixing tungsten and daylight, with some severe framerate problems. I don't know, maybe I needed to have told him, "looks great, go get 'em tiger." But he had told me to be honest so I can grow stuff.

So usually I am reluctant to offer criticism and save it for those who really seek it. And that list is very short. My wife and I both write-- I can count on her for honest critique that will help me become a better artist and vice versa. My last script had two, count 'em, two pages that didn't have red ink on them when she was through. And the script was much stronger for it and the producer had very few notes. My assistant Courtney knows my stand, and she has sought real criticism so I give her that (and it's hard to call her "assistant" nowadays, she's really coming into her own). And I can count on my hand the rest that truly seek to improve (because it is human nature to seek approval for art, which is a very vulnerable position).

When I worked at McDonalds in high school, they called the right attitude "green and growing." If I think I've arrived, I become unteachable. And I got a long road still ahead of me.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I just told my son's baseball team a few nights ago... there are two types of criticism, the truth and people who just don't get it. The truth, no matter how it is delivered (harshly, nicely, loudly) is still the truth. We should accept it and learn from it.

    People who just don't get it, well, you say thank you and move on.

    Whenever people have criticized my stuff with the truth, it's stuff I hoped they wouldn't see and am disappointed that I didn't cover up very well (weak acting, script, whatever). In the end, though, I know they're right.