Be Proud of Your Work

Black Bag Pictures replied to Wednesday’s post [paragraphs added for readability]:

Hollywood has changed significantly since Rambo III. It has become far more corporate, more focus grouped, more dissected. Despite the historic ego and money involved, it used to be a “family business.”

Now the chain of command goes up so far you’ll end up in a boardroom at Viacom staring down dozens of executives, along with the toy companies and marketing team and you’ll completely lose sight of what it is you set out to create. Because you didn’t create it. Someone else did… Stan Lee or Eastman and Laird. Or perhaps a filmmaker from the 70s like, oh I don’t know, George friggen Lucas? You no longer have creative ownership over the movie at all. You are a hired shill, whose job it is to maximize the entertainment value for ONE weekend, so the numbers look good to the shareholders. And then there’s China… let’s not even get into that.

My point is, if you want to be a brown-nosing suck-up, then take that old professor’s advice. But if you want to be a person of integrity, it’s perfectly acceptable to say a movie sucks. Because it probably does… and frankly, if someone’s ego is bruised because their Marvel sequel reboot wasn’t great, they should look in the mirror and ask themselves why they even want to make movies in the first place. If the answer is MONEY, then they should grow a thick skin and expect harsh criticism. If the answer is ART then they should maybe think about leaving Hollywood.

I could save everyone time and write “Don’t be like Black Bag,” but I take pride in my work, so I’m going to write a full on blog about this.1

People have always been complaining about how corporate filmmaking has become. In the 90s, old folks wouldn’t shut up about how great it was back in the 70s; now people glorify the indie boom of the 90s. This happens every generation. In the 1930s, filmmakers longed for the days of the nickelodeon.

It doesn’t matter at all why someone hired you to do your job, whether you’re a director or a PA. Your Evil Corporate Overlords are going to be evil and corporate. So what? You do your best and take pride in your work. Maybe the film is great, maybe it’s awful. That’s what happens when you work in a collaborative medium. The end product is out of your control.

Yes, even for the director.

Heed the wisdom of Patton Oswalt, about how seriously people in this business take their jobs–

After all that, I think it’s perfectly fine to be proud of what you’ve done, even if the movie isn’t that good.

So, when someone comes along and says, “That movie sucks!”, I don’t think, That person has Integrity. I think, What an asshole. And guess what? Assholes don’t get hired.

I didn’t tell you to lie.2 Just find something nice to say, because you’re talking to someone who poured their heart and soul into the job. Telling them it was all for nothing is a dick move, dude.

Finding something positive to say doesn’t make you a “brown-nosing suck-up;” it makes you a nice person.

That being said, making movies is a job, and I’m a professional. Yes, I expect to be paid, and I will not be ashamed to say that, no, I’m not going to work on a film unless I’m compensated for my time and talent. As a PA, that compensation tends to be low; as a director, it can be very, very high.

Does that mean I’m not creating Art? Bullshit. As Scott McCloud put it so eloquently in Understanding Comics:

Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction.

If you haven’t read this book, you really should.

If you don’t see that happening on sets across Hollywood, man, you’ve been working on the wrong movies.

Lastly, I like Marvel movies. The people who work on Marvel movies most definitely are not doing it just for the money. I know, from personal experience. I’m looking forward to their next sequel reboot.

So, again, despite your “integrity,” you screwed up at the most basic level of persuasion. You tried to find an example of a movie that is obviously devoid of artistic merit, and failed utterly.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Sorry, this is going to get long and rambly, but the comment I’m responding to is long and rambly.
  2. Well, okay, I did, but it was obviously a joke.
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One Response

  1. Although I enjoyed Black Bag’s response — and on an intellectual level, agree with him — walking the high-wire of artistic purity/integrity in this town is the pride that goes before the long fall into the abyss of unemployment. Hollywood is a business — an industry — not an art colony, and those who hope to remain employed had better learn to leave their sharp elbows and opinions at the door. There’s a time and place to bare your sensitive artistic soul and wail to the heavens about having to walk among and work with the corporate Philistines, but that place is not on the job or in social situations where industry people gather.

    Still, everybody — no matter what their job in the production office or on set — should take pride in their work and do the job right. For one thing, it feels good, and for another, doing sloppy work and not caring is yet another path to unemployment…

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