December 4, 2015

You May Never Be as Good at Filmmaking as You Want to Be, & That's OK

Filmmaking Expectations
If you care deeply about the craft of filmmaking, chances are that you have incredibly high standards for what makes a "good film." Trying to live up to those standards can be nearly impossible.

In a new video from DSLRguide, Simon Cade talks about that very subject — about why the creative process is inherently fraught with failure and self-doubt — and he offers one simple tip to combat this psychological barrier that all of us face at some point or another. This one is Simon's most personal videos yet, and in my opinion, one of his best. Check it out:

I've been big on the psychology of filmmaking lately, largely because those self-imposed mental barriers seem to be one of the biggest factors in why more people don't actively create. And few psychological barriers are as difficult to overcome as "the gap," the one between your expectations and your reality. No one else has summed up this dilemma quite as well as Ira Glass, host of This American Life.

For me personally, I love watching the work of Sven Nykvist or Gordon Willis, or any of the world's finest cinematographers for that matter. But afterwards, there's always a small part of me that thinks it would be pointless to go out and shoot something that I know won't be 1/10th as beautiful or meaningful as what they created.

But then again, comparing yourself or your work against that of others will never be a fruitful thing. Everyone's at a different point in their individual journey. Making a comparison between someone who's been shooting films for 5 years to someone who's been shooting for 40 years is kind of like comparing a $6 box of wine to a lovely French vintage that cost several grand. It's not a fair comparison, and making it will just drive you crazy.

In the end, the solution to this is both simple and difficult. You just have to put in the time and effort to make something, put it out into the world, then move on to making more things. Going through that process again and again will help you start bridging the gap between your abilities and your expectations.      

Your Comment

15 Comments

Very good article. I never want to reach a place where I'm fully content with my creations. I want to constantly progress. The idea of "best" doesn't exist in my mind. There is only "better." We can all continue to get better. Everyone from the high schooler who just picked up a camera for the first time to Martin Scorcese.

December 4, 2015 at 6:28PM, Edited December 4, 6:29PM

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Alexandra
Videographer / Documentary Filmmaker
357

Beautiful and inspiring post. I struggle with it - always feeling inadequate to everyone else - in my lighting, in composition, in everything. This really helps - that film the gap was super incredible too.

December 4, 2015 at 7:30PM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1570

Can we stop with the depressing stuff? Yes it's hard but do you expect it to be easy? "Trying to live up to those standards can be nearly impossible" Yes but you should at least try! Right? Okay a lot of us do try and if it doesn't work, why cry about it? You've learnt from it, move on. Trust me I know, it gets to me too. I've never sat around and questioned my entire existence, I've started writing another script! Yeah we're all human, had it rough and have had projects fail. It's a pretty depressing thing... But If you don't like your film, at least you know something is wrong. It's just a matter of figuring out what.

December 4, 2015 at 7:42PM, Edited December 4, 7:51PM

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I am a huge believer in the phrase "practice makes perfect", where most professionals have spent 5,000+ hours practicing to get where they are today, and this would apply to almost any difficult skill set. ( i.e. writer, dancer, musician, etc... )

When I first started out as an apprentice in a commercial photographic studio in London England, there were a few jobs where we had to work 48+ hours straight to meet the client's deadline. So you don't go home, you don't sleep, you don't shower, you just push on working non-stop until the job is finished. The longest job I had to do was 76 hours non-stop, and I was pretty sick for a few days afterwards.

After I returned to Canada I worked for a few different companies, and occasionally we would get hit with a 48+ hour deadline, and most of our staff could not make it past the first 24 hours, so it would almost always be me and the owner of the company that ended up finishing the job on time and making the deadline. I was 20 years older than some of the staff working there, but still these people did not know how to push themselves really hard when necessary.

Film production requires more energy and willpower than most other jobs, so in the beginning you REALLY have to want it, to be successful.

December 4, 2015 at 8:52PM, Edited December 4, 9:06PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32663

I come across articles with similar subject matter every so often and as I read/ watch them it definitely gives me a boost and then a week later (sometimes even later the same day) I'm back looking negatively at my own work.

As it says in the article, I love film and film making so much I think anything less than a perfect film is an insult to the craft and therefore am constantly down about what I have created no matter how much praise it receives from other people.

I think another problem is the advent of social media. I am constantly reminded of what my peers/ friends/ younger people are making and also the chances they seem to get which really gets to me sometimes. Although a lot (if not all) of the work I am commissioned to do is for web platforms, in some ways I wish I didn't have the distraction of it, a constant reminder of who is travelling to this country shooting an amazing project, or who has just landed this job because of it. Instead just to be able to keep ploughing ahead without being distracted constantly.

However at the same time I think maybe it's a good thing to be constantly in self doubt as long as you are on the boarder of quitting but don't and instead keep trying as hard as you can.

December 4, 2015 at 9:17PM

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Samuel Willis
Director/ DP/ Editor
88

Good one Simon! Someone once said. It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Do what you love......you may never be rich, maybe nobody will ever see your work. But YOU......will be happy!

December 5, 2015 at 6:28AM, Edited December 5, 6:35AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
884

This is the most poetic, inspiring comment ever. I love it!

December 5, 2015 at 10:40AM

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Robert Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker's Process
4332

*by Theo Roosevelt I think. Yes, a good one!

December 8, 2015 at 3:26PM

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Gabriel James Edwards
Filmmaker | Composer
8

Yup. Theodore Roosevelt. If you like this quote, you'll love Shame Psychologist Brene Brown's talk on vulnerability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk

December 11, 2015 at 11:05AM

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Themore
Amateur Videographer
88

Hang on I need to rewrite my post..

December 5, 2015 at 7:48AM, Edited December 5, 8:38AM

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Paul fern
Film maker
186

A film is like a photo of you. You're happy with it for a while. Then you change, and so you don't recognize yourself anymore. You need a new one.

December 5, 2015 at 12:35PM

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Norbert F
DOP
175

Great article! Daily struggle for most of us I'm sure. "Art is never finished, only abandoned." - Leonardo da Vinci. True artists may never be satisfied with their own work... probably why they're true artists. Thank God for deadlines I guess.

December 5, 2015 at 4:36PM

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Sean Korbitz
Director of Photography
203

This guy knows how to create drama.

December 7, 2015 at 5:28PM, Edited December 7, 5:28PM

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Einar Gabbassoff
D&CD at Frame One Studio
1121

Fantastic post. Hugely important. Thank you for sharing.

This is a book that's basically all about this topic and even specifically this same angle on it, written by a woman in the 1930s. It pretty much saved my brain from creative self-destruction and is always a great help when self-doubt creeps back in: http://www.amazon.com/You-Want-Write-Brenda-Ueland/dp/1614271356/ref=sr_...

December 8, 2015 at 3:39PM

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Gabriel James Edwards
Filmmaker | Composer
8

I've found two things that help me avoid the doubt.
1. When I'm working on a project, I avoid watching a lot of other films because that will just emphasize how much I lack in my own work. I need to focus on what I am doing, not compare my unfinished project to a polished film.
2. Focus on one or two things I want to improve on with each project. When I see my finished work, I can be happy with those improvements instead of judging it as a whole. The pieces where I feel the most unhappy are the ones where I didn't become better at anything specific.

December 12, 2015 at 4:27AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
327

"You just have to put in the time and effort to make something, put it out into the world, then move on to making more things. Going through that process again and again will help you start bridging the gap between your abilities and your expectations."
Very well put, we all need to stop agonising and do this.

June 26, 2016 at 7:24AM

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Thomas Scott
Lecturer in Media Production
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