Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How I Made a Movie: Part 6 of 6 - Fear. It's always Fear

Previously on part 5
I had finished editing the movie...
It was, in every way done...
but I still did nothing with it...

After I had finished the movie, I let out a tentative breath. It was a relief but there was still a bit of hesitation. For some reason, the rewarding joy that follows the end of every project was missing here. This project took so much more out of me than any painting, piece of writing, or performance. I guess it was partly due to my insecurity because there was so much I had to do on the fly, with little knowledge, and very little preparation.

So maybe it's not that surprising, in hindsight, that I was scared to show it to people. I was scared to release it to the public. Simply put, I was just scared.


Well, this is a much bigger problem, one exacerbated by my own doing. With any project, there comes a period I like to call the fraud period, or 'impostor syndrome' as it's known to others. It manifests itself most strongly during my illustration work. At some point, when I sit down to continue to paint - I look at what I've done and I think any number of the following things:

'This is awful'
'Why would anyone ask me to make something for them?'
'Wow, I suck'
'There are so many people who are better than me'
'Can I even accept money for this?'
'My client is gonna be so disappointed when I'm finished with this'
'I'll never get another commission'
'I should give up'
'Why do I do this?'

and so on.

If it sounds like I'm being harsh and cruel to myself, I am. And there's nothing good that really comes out of this. It's an awful funk that is an unfortunate part of my process. But, because most of the time, especially recently, my illustration work has a stronger sense of responsibility attached (someone is expecting it, I'm being paid for it, or I signed a contract for it), I have a real motivation and sense of duty to finish it. If it was my own piece, there is a very real chance that I would give up on it. Hell, I have a folder full of half-finished paintings because sometimes, that voice inside myself is too much, I believe what it says, and I stop working.

Most of the time though, I can rationalize the voice shut. This is done with some of the following retorts:

'It's mid-process, it'll look fine in the end'
'It's not supposed to look good right now'
'There is no 'better' when it comes to art/illustration' (this is a half lie I tell myself)
 'They came to you for a reason'
'They might not be able to get someone better'
'This is how you keep learning'

and so on.

So how was this relevant to my lack of action after I finished the movie?

Well...there were a number of issues at hand.

First, I thought the movie wasn't great. My expectations were insanely high. When I thought of the final result for the project, I expected something akin to a contemporary comedy show. You know, the kind with millions of dollars and hundreds of people behind it. Reasonable expectations.

Second, I thought I had failed everyone involved in the project and I was scared that they would see it and hate it. This (and all the reasons) all go back to my unreasonably high expectations.

Third, I had told so many people about the project for such a long time that I was embarrassed to show it to them. This was my fault completely. When I first started the project, I wanted to insert continuous motivation for me to finish the project because I thought there was a real possibility that I wouldn't and I wanted to avoid that. So I told almost everybody about the project so they would ask me about it and because I would hate to then say 'we never finished it.' Social pressure is real and I wanted to use it to my advantage.

Unfortunately, it backfired and came the other way. Instead, I was embarrassed to release it because I had been talking about it for so long.

I didn't really know what to do until I finally said it out loud to someone and they gave me an insanely good piece of advice. One that any creative could use and one that, honestly, I knew and for some reason didn't apply what was my problem at the time. Funny how blind you can be to your own lessons sometimes. Here it is in big big letters.


By the way, that post-it is on my wall, where I keep nearly 20 post-its on a variety of different things - mostly on life lessons-ish stuff. I'll likely write about them one day.

This helped and was extremely eye opening. It really put my first issue, that of expectations, to rest. I was comparing myself to work that takes an exponential amount of effort to create. That just doesn't happen given the resources and people involved in my project. So, how could I even expect what's sometimes done with 100x more people and money?

Then I thought about how selfish I was being to everyone who worked just as hard on the project. They would want to see a final product - how could I be the only person saying "no, it didn't meet my expectations, so no one's going to get to see anything they made"

And lastly, regarding the expectations I set for everyone - 1) they probably don't care that much, and 2) the ones that do will support me. Even if they didn't like it, they would either be nice about it or offer constructive criticism.

I was making a huge deal of the project when it didn't need to be.

So I released it. People told me how much they liked it. How much they laughed. How good it was. What my next project was going to be. If anyone thought it was awful, I didn't hear it. If I'm ever to be a success in a very public-facing medium, I should cherish this moment as people you don't know often love to tell you how much they didn't like something.

Regardless, my biggest takeaway was that I need to have a better perspective of what my expectations should be and I should be less harsh to myself. When I started out in illustration I knew I sucked. I knew that it was a process and I would get better with each painting, learning new things along the way. I never expected perfection and I never expected to create illustrations like a seasoned professional would create. Because that's unreasonable. So why did I think, on my first try, knowing nearly as little as possible, that I would create something that could parallel what hundreds of people spend years perfecting?

So with that, the movie was released. You can, again, watch it here. I'm incredibly happy and proud of what we made. I'm very thankful to everyone who contributed in a variety of ways. I'm already thinking of the next one - it'll get easier I hope. At the very least, I won't be re-learning this lesson again.

I hope.

Thanks for reading - I promise the next post will talk about illustration!