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Film Junkyard: Taking a punch

By Fred Fernando

 

Dealing with criticism is an inevitable part of any creator’s career, let alone a filmmaker’s. Putting your content out for the world to see is an act of vulnerability. You stay in close connection with an idea, nurture it from concept, take it through the gruelling stages of production, and birth a fleshed-out piece of art. Essentially, you’re putting your baby out into the harsh world where criticism will be levelled against it in ways you never imagined. And as a parent/creator, whenever a not-so-soothing bunch of words are targeted at your baby, it’s only fair that you get stung.

Some films hardly ever see the light of day due to this fear – the fear that your product “may not be good enough” or wondering “what will people say”. These are common fears that plague most creators.

But then again, growing as an artist is also a process that requires you to show your work (as Austin Kleon’s book title aptly states). While showing your work can be daunting and trigger both positive and negative feedback, an artist’s job is to take constructive feedback and utilise that as the groundwork for the next project.

Here are a few tips on how to (figuratively) take a punch.

 

Roll with the hits

Rolling with the punches that come at you is an art that takes time to learn. Initially, any creator stung with harsh words directed at their creation tends to get defensive. It is a strike at one’s ego in a sense, which is what needs to be overcome. Try not to see negative feedback as an attack on the art; instead, see it as someone’s opinion. And an opinion is something everybody has, whether they’ve expressed it or not. Even what we today consider the best works of art have haters and critics. See criticism as part of the world we live in. After all, how would we identify something as positive without the negative to contrast it with?

Develop resilience

Feeling the sting of criticism can induce fear in ways that make creators not want to put their work out there. There is no shame in feeling that, but try to remember not to take criticism too personally. Keep grinding at your craft. Focus on putting your best into every project, no matter what the outcome may be. Keeping the audience in mind all the time when creating can greatly hinder the creative process, so try not to let it become a burden. Remember why you started creating in the first place and stick to that reason; let it be your drive.

 

Take what is essential, discard what is not

Listen to or read reviews and comments people leave, be on social media or any other platform. And as negative as some of them may sound, there could be different perspectives from other people, which could lend to a change in your own viewpoint that greatly enhances the quality of your future work. It takes skill to see the positive side of a negative comment. The mind is a muscle; train it consistently to see the hidden gems. Then, take what is essential and discard the rest.

Be your own worst critic

Sometimes, being the most critical person about your own work can diminish the effect of negative feedback from external sources. Most perfectionists take lots of time and pay crazy attention to detail, and even when their work is out there and gets praise or criticism, they only see how they could have done better.

No matter where criticism comes from, in what form it may be, always remember that neither praise nor condemnation pay the bills. And while they can contribute to the quality of future work, refrain from letting it affect your ego. As a creator, if all you get is praise for your work, your ego becomes pretty fragile the moment a single negative feedback comes your way. Maintain composure, take both sides with elegant stride, and never be too hard on yourself. Taking a punch, like any other project, is an art and building it up takes time.

 

In 2015, filmmaking collective High School Junkies started creating short films out of passion and soon gained momentum as a film production house that championed frugal filmmaking. Their second short, EIDETIC, became the first-ever Sri Lankan film to be screened at the San Diego Comic-Con and has subsequently been screened all over the world. They host guests from Hollywood on their webinar, Junkyard Theory.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.