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I watch a lot of films. I think I watch about 250 a year. I also watch a lot of films that never come out, that most audiences never get access to.
I learn a great deal from the “noble failures”, the films that have ambition but just miss the mark fully in execution. I honestly like these films and find pleasure in watching them, but I also know that most people like their entertainment and culture to be in a more perfectly realized state — even if most of us don’t have the resources to bring our work to that state. I think most people’s taste is shaped by their training; we learn to like what we get — unfortunately.
Yet I also think there are some things that [...]
Can we and the people we work with actually get better at the things we do? And can we get better, faster? Are there things that we can do for each other that might expedite the process? How do we transcend the plague of doing well enough?
On low-budget indie film shoots, the collaborators are of a wide range of experience levels. Such films are also chronically plagued by a paucity of funds and time. Too much to get done, and not enough resources to really get it done perfectly, or sometimes even just well. With a hundred things needing to happen at any given time, your head will pop if you concern yourself with everything that goes wrong. It does seem like those that often do best are those that have learned not to sweat the petty, or perhaps some sort of zen-esque understanding of the world (that is combined with the sort of hyper-focus of concentration in the things that make all the difference — and that will some other post further down the line).
The Serenity Prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous has adopted always seems fit as a method to manage the creative chaos that defines most film production. Granted, I get some criticism in life for having too great expectations of people and things, believing always that one time we all will hit our high point, but I really think by dropping our ego, finding a way to point out what can be done better, explaining the reasons why, we can rise to the occasion and one day truly get it all in sync and do beautiful work. I want us to do more and to do it better, myself included. Let me get to that, but first, I think it’s worth looking beyond the first three lines of the Serenity Prayer, and look at the rest of it:
Many times on film sets, I see folks hesitant to say what they feel, not wanting to complain, not wanting to demand that things are better. When things are sloppy or unsafe or could be handled in a better manner that will most likely yield a better result: SAY SOMETHING. Don’t be cruel, but be direct. Explain, why you think it will work better if they did something differently. Speak of the result you want to obtain. But speak up. Maybe you have to pause and wait for the right time to be truly heard, but speak up.
And when they don’t get it right, take action. Step in, get it done, and recognize when you have to make a change. Be it a director or a producer, if I have heard it once, I have heard it a 100 times: “whenever I considered firing someone, I end up always wishing that I had done it then and there, and when I haven’t done it, I always regret it.” Under the right circumstances, people can learn from those mistakes. What are the right circumstances that help us all learn?