Filmmakers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life and produce all sorts of interesting videos. Coffee table filmmakers, however, produce great ideas – and that’s about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee. Drinking coffee is one of those weird things that makes you feel grown up and, well, wide awake. But when I use the term ‘coffee table filmmaker’, I’m referring to the rather small demographic of filmmakers who plot out really cool film ideas, but never follow through with them. Come on, fellas, there’s nothing more painful than see a bright spark go to waste because you’re either too worried/lazy/nervous/uninspired to do something with it.
I suppose this goes for artists of all mediums. When I see a budding painter constantly throwing out drafts because it’s not turning out exactly the way they want it, or an animator who is too scared to release a showreel because they don’t think it is an accurate representation of their current skill level, or even a musician who never records their music because they’re not sure whether it’s worth putting the time into it, I can’t help but feel sympathetic towards them. I understand how hard it is going to release something, but knowing it may not live up to certain expectations, and choosing to hold back. We’re essentially putting our heart and soul on a plate for people to tear apart. We put a lot of effort into the work we do, and sometimes it’s hard to share that with other people, knowing they may not like it. But that’s the whole point of us, as artists! Sometimes we have to release a not-so-great, unpolished, semi-finished work, because there are times when it’s either that or nothing. We learn from the mistakes we make along the way, but if we’re too scared to make those mistakes to begin with, we’ll never know how to improve next time.
Thomas defending himself against the critics.
Even if you think your work isn’t perfect, let someone else tell you first. It’s scary, yes. But they can tell you why. They are fresh eyes on a work you have laboured over for days, weeks, months. They’ll notice things you may not have noticed initially, and sometimes the small issues you felt were so obvious won’t be picked up at all. Keep in mind everyone has their own tastes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help you.
A good example of this happening to me is with The Noodle Man. I had showed final drafts of the film to a few different people, and all gave me mixed responses. The older people I showed liked the pacing, the steadiness of the shots and the moral of the story. On the other hand, a large portion of younger people in my audience thought it dragged on for too long in certain scenes, and that the cinematography was for the most part, fairly bland. People who have seen multiple films of mine noticed that while it had a slightly different flavour compared to my previous films, the characters still all spoke like me. It took me a while to understand this – at first I didn’t think much of this statement, but upon viewing my film again I noticed what they were talking about. Everyone was talking exactly like me. As you can guess, for my next film I made a large effort to diversify not only my character’s dialogue, but develop small quirks and nuances that made them individual. That’s a small example of how people’s feedback has helped me improve one aspect of my script writing.
And sure, there may be some nasty ol’ critics who seem to just want to point out the flaws in your work, but most are there to help you, and show you how to improve. It’s about humility, about putting yourself out there and realising that most people aren’t there to tear you down, but to help you build yourself up.