Fighting The Feeling Of Failure

November 8, 2015

In any creative venture including color correction the feeling of failure is always lurking. Learn how to fight the feeling of failure.

In Any Creative Venture The Feeling Of Failure Is Always Lurking – Fight It!

Last week I caught up with a few colorist buddies of mine over drinks and during that conversation one of my friends responded after I asked how a recent grade went that I knew he was excited about:

‘it was ok, I think the client was happy but do you ever have one of those sessions where you just feel like all your work sucks?  That you’ve failed in some way? I just felt like I sucked on this project, that I failed somehow.’

After flagging down the bartender for another round, I told my buddy I knew exactly how he felt, that I’ve felt that way, that probably anyone who does anything creative has felt that way at one time or another. This news seemed to help, or could have been the stiff drink!

I told my friend that I had been thinking a lot recently about failure, and how to fight the feeling that my work and other aspects of doing business weren’t good enough.

2015 has been an odd year for me – losing long time business partners and gaining new ones, losing a couple clients, but gaining ones that I’d never thought I’d land.

In other words, some very hard times and some exceptionally good ones.

In this Insight, I want to share some strategies on how to fight the feeling of failure.

As a creative person, you’re going to feel that you’ve failed on a project or your work wasn’t good enough at some point – that’s natural.  But it’s overcoming and fighting those feelings and not letting them control you that can be difficult.

Not Every Project Is Art

At some level, nearly every colorist I know has a touch of O.C.D.

Our keen eye for detail is not only what has drawn us to this niche of postproduction, but also what (hopefully) keeps us being successful for years to come.

But sometimes that compulsion to keep tweaking, keep fixing and improving shots is bad thing, meaning that if you let perfection (which is not possible by the way!) consume you it will literally beat you down.

There is an old adage that I think about a lot:

‘films aren’t finished, they’re abandoned’

For me this incredibly accurate statement means several things:

  • More Could Always Be Done – more days of production, more lights, more and better cameras, more editing time, more color correction time!  Every single person in the production pipeline always wants more time to tweak and perfect. But that’s not always possible. When you’re fighting the feeling of failure remind yourself there are probably others on this project who wanted more time and felt like you do now.
  • Budget Constraints Don’t Reflect What You Can Really Do- When I first started my grading career I used to apply the same amount of effort to a $500 project or a $10,000 project.  In other words, I lost a lot of money, and gained a lot of stress not operating within the budget constraints of a project. I felt that if I didn’t give the cheap project the same level of TLC I would the more expensive project I’d failed the client and potentially may have caused damage to my reputation. These days if I client asks for $3k of work for $500 I tell them exactly what I can do for $500 and why the project is really a more expensive one.  If they still want to take what I can do for $500 I don’t feel bad about the work I was able to do – even if it’s not up to my usual standards and what I thought the project really needed.
  • Improvement Not Perfection – As artists, there is a natural tendency to have everything we do be amazing, revolutionary or whatever other awesome adjective you want to use.  But you know what?  That’s not always possible. You’re never going to be able to take that crappy DSLR shot that is 10 stops overexposed and out of focus and make it look like Roger Deakins masterpiece that was graded for 3 hours straight!  But you can probably make it ‘less bad’.

Sure, there are some projects that I pull out my full on OCD colorist mode, some projects that I work way harder on than the budget I have dictates, but more and more I’m trying to live by the motto of improving, not perfection.

If all the stars align and I have budget, time, the creative juices are flowing, then I’ll strive for as near to perfection as possible – but when that doesn’t happen I remind myself that not every project is art and accept the fact that I substantially improved the way the project looks and fixed many of the problems that it had.

If you can do the same you’ll have a great way to fight the feeling that you’ve failed on a project.

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