Don’t Take This Personally


Dawn CobaltWhen you make a film it is a personal reflection of your vision. This vision is realized with the help of others. Once the film is shown, people will have their own opinion and may offer unfavorable criticism. If these criticisms are not taken personally, they can be used to improve your future stories and enhance your work. The trick is to learn how to do that.

In my high school art class, I created this painting that I thought was not my best work. I assumed I would get a bad grade and be criticized by the teacher. When I presented the painting to her she loved it. I couldn’t believe it. She let me do what ever I wanted for the rest of class time because I had “created a masterpiece.” This struck me as odd. I thought long and hard about this experience and realized that no matter what I think of my work, someone else is going to have their own opinion and it most likely is not going to match mine.

This lesson taught me that the critique of my own work would rarely match what others thought of it. I had the good fortune to learn this valuable lesson with someone that liked my work. But most of these lessons will come from people that do not agree with your ideas. Because of this, I learned to step back and let the others speak freely about how my films make them feel.

The first place to apply this lesson is in the process of making the film. When working with others that are putting a high level of effort into the film, these people will always offer input from their perspective: the writer, production designer, cinematographer, editor etc. Once I read a script I begin to create a vision. Now that vision can change if I’m given a suggestion that I think works for the film. When working with your crew, you will receive their opinions about how they see it. If it falls in line with your vision use it, if it doesn’t, don’t. The trick here is to tactfully express your vision while respecting the creative input of the crew. Explain that you had something very specific in mind. When they counter your explanation, which some will, don’t take it to heart. Don’t let this sway you from your vision. Keep strong and move forward.

The second place to apply this lesson is once the film is in the public eye. People that do not know you are going to comment about your film and about you personally. The feedback will run the gamut from “this is the best thing I’ve seen” to “this is the worst piece of shit ever.” You will get advice on what to do to fix it and put it out again, (yeah, let’s reassemble the crew because one person thought of a better line). You will be told to re-edit some scenes out. You will be told what you meant while you were making it. And you will always, and I mean always, offend someone. Actually this is all valuable feedback. It means you have held someone’s attention long enough for them to notice and think about your story, your work and your message.

You will want to comment on all these remarks but I strongly suggest against it. Replying is letting them know that they got to you. Engage with the positive ones, let them know you appreciate it and are listening to them. For the comments that aren’t so complimentary, these will be handled by those who enjoyed and connected with your film. Others will take on the fight for you, which to me, is an even higher compliment. You can see some of this on my short, Out Smart:

You can even see that we offended someone with our LEGO line.

I never delete these comments, unless they are harmful or offensive to someone. I let people have their say, who am I to edit them? They did take the time to watch my work. I listen to them, let them have their say, and move on.