Creative Leadership

Filmmakers and Creatives: Making Judgements is Your Job, Not Your Life

Don't get the two mixed up....

I started my career as a multi-camera television director. I directed national, prime time TV variety specials, concert events, sports, and much more. Then I gravitated toward more film-style shooting, and eventually writing and producing. As I grew in the business, I learned pretty quickly that directors, producers, and writers spend their day making judgement calls.

Was the actor’s performance what was needed?
Was the set design believable?
Did the script deliver?
Was the lighting right?
Did the make-up look good?
How was the sound?
Does the music work?

…and on and on. Literally all day long we’re making judgement calls on every aspect of the production.

Although it can be exhausting, I was fine with that. But after years and years on a set, the idea of making constant judgement calls started to seep into my personality. Before long, judging people, things, behavior, actions, and more became a way of life.

I would come home from work and start judging my wife. I would be constantly evaluating my kids. I would criticize my friends for things I didn’t like.

In other words, I started looking at all of life through a director’s lens.

If you’re a filmmaker or creative person, one important piece of advice I would share is to save your criticism and judgements for the studio, and be more intentionally loving and forgiving when you walk off the set. Looking back, I can see how I damaged family relationships, hurt more than a few friends, and even lost clients, because I didn’t realize just how harsh I had become.

The truth is, the very thing that made me a good director, was making me a terrible person.

As a result, the older I get the more tolerant and forgiving I become. Talent is important, and having the confidence to make good judgements in the studio is critical. But your life isn’t a production set or editing room, and when you say “Cut” after your last scene of the day, it’s time to relax the criticism and let people live their lives without knowing whether or not you approve.

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  1. When the kids were learning how to play an instrument or write a song, I found it difficult to deal with creativity at that (entry) level. Although I always encouraged their creative endeavors, my attempts to help or teach were sometimes perceived as criticism, and that didn’t work out too well for any of us. It took some time for me to realize that “anything worth doing is worth doing poorly” until you get better at it. And today we’re all better because of that attitude.

  2. Excellent advice! I find myself constantly evaluating sermons and digital media instead of paying attention to their life-changing messages. We could all stand to be less critical (not a criticism).

  3. As a teacher, it also sometimes difficult to leave the “teacher voice” at work and not treat family and friends as my students.

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