Last week, a couple of things happened which prompted the impetus to write this post. First, I saw an advanced screening of Oculus thanks to the Reddit team at Relativity Media, who were kind to invite the reddit community to a screening in NY after Karen Gillan’s iAmA. Second, How I Met Your Mother ended last week, to reactions from the fan community that were… nonplussed, to say the least. Lastly, I received an interesting e-mail.
What do they all have in common?
It’s a fact that we, as creators, are subject to criticism the moment we create something. And that both a good thing and a bad thing. We, as creators, cannot create in a vacuum, and must appreciate when others point out our virtues and our faults. It’s the only way we can really grow. The alternative is either not creating or surrounding yourself with Yes men who’ll agree to anything then act completely shocked when the product you’ve made is well… crap (*cough* Jar-Jar Binks *cough*).
But when is it appropriate to incorporate the criticisms and when is it alright to stick to your vision, regardless of the audience’s reaction?
Let me explain why I pose this question. At the Oculus screening (which, BTW, if you are a fan of horror movies, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND going to see it this weekend), the audience were disgruntled by certain aspects of the movie. And were quite, quite vocal about it. While I disagreed with the criticism (again, I thought it was a great movie), I wondered how, if the studio listened to them, it would affect the movie. Would it change how it’s marketed? Perhaps limit its release? Maybe *gulp* force scene reshoots? Unlikely outcomes, yes, but it’s not like it’s unheard of. Will Smith’s movie “I Am Legend” ‘s ending was reshot after an early screening, which in my opinion was a disservice to the movie. If you doubt the power of the vocal criticism, take a look at How I Met Your Mother’s season finale. Yes, its ending had been planned almost a decade in advance, but enough people were dissatisfied that an alternate ending is being released on the DVD box set, as a gesture to appease said disgruntled fans.
So, when all’s said and done (and collated and analyzed with spreadsheets, no less), what are we to do? Naturally, there’s no straightforward answer, but the best I can offer is for you, fellow creator, is some advice. Have the strength to believe in yourself and your vision, regardless of the obstacles and nay-sayers you face, while at the same time have the confidence in yourself to embrace that which will help you and lead you to become better (and consequently create a better product). A creator’s role undoubtedly forces one to reevaluate oneself, hopefully leading to a true self-assessment of one’s virtues and faults. Without it, we risk inviting hubris or paralyzing timidity into our soul, neither of which are good for us.
But please, at the end of the day, if ten people are telling you that the road ends at the top of the cliff, don’t go driving off thinking there’s more road ahead. At the very least, stop the car and check the path, ok?
Oh, what was that last thing I mentioned? Ah yes, the email I got. I was very fortunate to have gotten an email from an individual at Dark Horse who read Torchbearer and gave me some constructive feedback. I don’t really care to name names, as that’s not important. What is important is that Torchbearer was praised as a work of professional grade.
Not bad for our first series. 🙂
And yes, we’ve had our own fair share of bad reviews. Here’s my favorite “bad” review. And another one. Whenever I start getting too grandiose in my self-confidence, I look up these reviews to bring me down to earth. Conversely, when I feel like shit, there are a couple of emails I’ve received that pep me up and remind me that this is all worthwhile. It’s important to acknowledge both the great reviews and the not-so great. In the end, if what you make is good, it’ll withstand those who don’t “get it”. Even a classic like “The Usual Suspects” got a poor review. From Roger Ebert, no less.
So, with that, dear reader, I hope it helps you in appreciating criticism and helping you react to it. Hopefully, it brings you that much closer to getting your work out there for others to read and enjoy.
Until next time.