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Filmmaking / Directing : Self criticism by Jethro Randell

Jethro Randell

Self criticism

I always find it hard to judge my own work from an objective point of view. I see my work in the same way a mother would view their children. I see them as examples of perfection because they were made by me, like I'm sure we all do respectively. But if that item I would worship so much turns out to actually be the worst thing to ever be witnessed by another human being. So my question is, how does one perform self criticism objectively and reliably?

Stage 32 Staff - Julie

Jethro, I think the ability to have external critique and use it as constructive is a great place to start. If others can objectively critique your work, it will help your mind open and expand your own self criticism. I don't know the source of where I heard this, but the quote is something along the lines of "you have to learn how to kill your darlings" - meaning that sometimes you love so much may just have to go for the sake of the project - whether it's a scene, a line of dialogue, a character, etc. Once you master that, then you are in the realm of being true professional and the self criticism comes easier. Here's a cool video that talks about this idea in general. Even though it says screenwriting, it applies to all disciplines: https://www.stage32.com/blog/Advice-on-Receiving-Script-Coverage-On-The-...

Jonathan Price

Great topic, Jethro. I spent a number of years developing a sense of perspective on my own work (it's not "objective" since there is no such thing, but rather a subjective perspective as if I were listening to someone else's work, which is the most anyone can hope for). It's a testable project. If you look back at the work you did years ago, you tend to have that perspective. So if you can get to the point where you have the same reaction to your own work months after creation, then you're there. I can offer a couple strategies that have helped me. First is suggesting to yourself that this is the first time you've ever seen/heard your own work. Actors do this all the time. They know what is going to happen in a scene, but they need to convince themselves that they don't know...otherwise that moment of surprise or discovery won't happen. As a creator, you look/listen to your work and tell yourself "I've never seen/heard this before in my life. In fact, it was created by someone who I usually dislike, so I'm going to be extra critical." The mind will buy it, just like actors who tell themselves "I have no idea he's going to pull out a gun." The other tool I use is to disassociate the joy of creation from my perspective. When I was in college and first heard one of my compositions performed by an orchestra, I was ecstatic. Something that was only in my mind up until that point was being played by 50 people. How cool. The only problem is that, from an audience's perspective, they didn't create the piece. They won't experience your joy of creation because they didn't create it. So you need to separate that joy from your perspective. Over time, that joy becomes easier to compartmentalize because initial thrills become duller over the years, but it's still important to realize that that thrill will cloud your perspective and to not let it become a factor in your judgement. Those are my main tools. I developed them as an audio engineer, oddly enough, but realized that I could use them for any creative process. I've used them as a composer, playwright, and a director.

Krystal Athena Hubbard

Awesome topic, Jethro! I have found that when I write to completion I set it aside until I can no longer remember how it felt to type the words on the page. Then I can go in and, as Stephen King said, "kill my little darlings"! I have PLENTY of stories to tell and I have to make sure that those stories are told in a succinct, intensely visual manner without getting in my OWN way during the process. In the end, it has been a challenge, but a challenge worth conquering. I would much rather find the flaws before handing my work over and it getting eviscerated because I didn't do MY editing part. I have clients who find this INCREDIBLY challenging...so I tell them "go edit yourself before I demolish your favorite character..." I also think it is important to KNOW your story inside out and upside down so you CAN fight to keep a character or a scene... Good luck to you!

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