When I used to teach, I would be the first person to see the students’ final film ideas.
They would pitch me the wonders of their imaginations either with or without thumbnail drawings.
It was a fun and magical time for them filled with anxiety and anticipation.
And sometimes fear.
You see, over time I had developed a bit of a reputation of being brutally honest when needed. If I didn’t think they had a decent story idea, I would tell them.
If they were heading towards making a “Huh? What?”* film, I would say so.
(* A “Huh? What?” film is when the film finishes screening, it’s met with silence. Then with the audience looking at each other mumbling, “Huh? What the hell was THAT?” A common occurrence in student film screenings unfortunately.)
I eventually started to call these pitch sessions “The Crushing of Dreams”.
Well, *I* thought it was funny.
So did a lot of the students. It got to the point if one of their classmates had a real whopper of an idea, a group of them would gather around nearby just to see my reaction.
Which was usually a silent-stare-opened-mouth-raised-eyebrow kind of thing.
They dug it.
Until it was their turn.
Then it wasn’t so amusing.
Sometimes I was met with anger. Sometimes I was met with appreciation. Sometimes I was met with defensiveness. Oy, was I met with defensiveness!
“Yeah, but…”, “Yeah, but…”, “Yeah, but…”.
Now, when I did these “Crushing of Dreams”, it truly came from a place of sincerity and caring. Even if it didn’t look that way to the students at the time.
I didn’t want these guys to have that “Huh? What?” film. (Well OK, except maybe those folks who really didn’t give a damn. I sorta looked forward to that sweet revenge.)
I wanted them to have a kick-ass film. And to challenge themselves. And to have something to be proud of after busting their butts for five long months. Despite how it looked sometimes, I didn’t do it just to amuse myself (or the other students).
I wanted them to learn and grow and get better.
And getting constructive feedback on your work is the single best way to do that.
But I get it.
You see, I’m going to put on my big ol’ hypocrite hat now. Because I don’t deal with criticism all that well either. It stems from a “I can’t suck” kind of place.
I absolutely hate re-doing my boards and always hope there’s a revision crew. I rarely watch finished shows I’ve storyboarded because I don’t want to see what they’ve revised.
I’ll either think “Crap! They changed that! I suck!” or “Crap! They changed that! I was right! Fools!”
So I just avoid all that by living in blissful ignorance.
It’s for the best, really.
Now, I’ve been in the business long enough to know that my revisions (and, *ahem*, I usually don’t have all that many) usually have nothing to do with me. It’s just business.
And I feel I’ve been doing this long enough to have earned the blissful ignorance. Because believe me, I’ve had my work ripped apart from here to hell and back.
It was my first job.
And it was ‘challenging’ to deal with all that ‘ripping apart’ to say the least. In the blink of an eye, fifty storyboard pages could be thrown in the trash and need to be redone ASAP.
Sometimes there were even personal insults thrown in, just to make the experience that much more memorable. I still have one of the thousands of post-it notes that used to litter our boards.
It says, “Not funny.”
Mind you, that wasn’t nearly as bad as getting the one post-it note folded over 75 pages just saying, “Rethink”.
Going through so much criticism and revising and learning was like some kind of cartoon boot camp.
Breaking away and freelancing after that experience was like walking in the park on a sunny day. I learned not all jobs are like that. Thank Gawd.
I learned more in that first year of storyboarding than if everyone had been blowing smoke up my rear end the whole time.
Criticism and feedback, when coming from the right place (or sometimes the ‘wrong’ place) is the only way you learn and grow.
Smoke-blowing will keep you where you are.
Sucking and not knowing it.
So the next time someone is going to evaluate your work, try to stop and listen. And see where it’s coming from.
If it’s coming from someone who has absolutely no business giving their two cents, then give it that much worth.
But if it’s coming from that place of wanting you to learn something and grow, then keep your mouth shut for a minute and listen.
Stifle the “Yeah, but…”s.
You just might learn something.
And end up with an audience that says, “That was awesome!”
Read the Storyboard Blog by RSS Feed or by email so you’d don’t suck at storyboarding.