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I Hate Your Work

Except when their criticism sucks of course.

Recently, I got rejected. Not by a significant other or a friend, or even an employer like this blog usually focuses on.

I had a client hate the spec I was commissioned to create for them.

It sucks wholeheartedly, of course, but it’s a testament to my progress these past long years that I wasn’t offended, I wasn’t hurt, and I wasn’t begrudging. I was aware and considerate of “someone else’s opinion” while still holding my own.

Half of their reasoning made sense. I believe it was misguided, like a person who worries about the continuity of cigarette lengths, but I understand. Some people do notice that kind of stuff. Sure we’ll work on that.

Some of it was flat out wrong, but I wasn’t drawn to spite and anger at somehow thinking I was superior to them because I’m trained in teh cinema, and they’re just some yahoos.

Significantly, what I noticed were their notes of pure opinion. In this project, the direction of the casting, the choice of pace, the styling, it all pointed to a look, feel, smell, touch, that I felt was right for the product. I was clear on that, that we were going “hipster”, not “pop” (to keep up with those young people trends), from the treatment all the way through post. I never heard any criticism, so I believed I was on the right track. Now, after the money’s been spent, they’re honest with me. They don’t like it “in general” and they’re upset.

They have a right to be upset, I didn’t deliver what they want. I will do what I can to rework it to their wishes since it is, after all, their money. But I won’t fault myself for falsely advertising the idea. I won’t guilt myself into working slavishly to correct what was never wrong in the first place, since what I delivered was exactly what I proposed. I will not put in the grandiose effort of reshooting for free because of the client’s hesitation to speak up during prep, when we were still casting and choosing a color palette and shooting, and things weren’t locked and filmed and set in celluloid. Officially, I did my job right every step of the way and the finished spec is great, of course, in my opinion. With film, like with every other design company, there is only so much that can be guaranteed. I’ll try to help, but I can’t snap my fingers and turn a blue dress into a green one. You should’ve said something at the shoot.

People go about the endless subjective criticism that the film business doles out in different ways. Some play the game and lose themselves. Some get even more belligerent and obtuse. The smart and the determined are able to strike a balance between being Michael Bay and being Lars Von Trier. Really, I’m shocked that I don’t hate them back, that I don’t go all Paul Thomas Anderson and blame the world for not understanding me, me, me. Maybe I really am maturing, maybe it’s a sign that things in Hollywood are going okay for me, that I haven’t been beaten just yet. I haven’t let them get to me, but I am still allowing the osmosis of critique and improvement.

I guess the lesson here is that if you’re going to keep doing what you’re doing with a good attitude, even in the face of disagreeing gods, then you’re truly on the road to doing what you love.

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