Responding to Critique Sessions

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Several weeks ago at our Methodology Workshop, we screened a fine cut of a film I’m wrapping up. I thought I was close to done. The group thought otherwise. I have to admit it stung to hear so much criticism so close to the end.

After dusting off my ego, I wrote down some thoughts on how best to consider a critique:

  1. Following a screening, if at all possible, take time to digest feedback before returning to your edit. Lots of comments can feel like a barrage. Having an opportunity to reflect on them before jumping back in can offer clarity.
  2. What is the common denominator of all the feedback? Write it down in a single sentence. As you make revisions, ask yourself, are you addressing that issue?
  3. Pay attention to the comments that make you angry. Often that’s resistance talking. Question what you’re holding on to.
  4. The writer Neil Gaiman once wisely said, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
  5. And speaking of attribution, the always quotable David Mamet, in his excellent book Bambi vs. Godzilla, said, Never take advice from someone that doesn’t have a vested interest in your success. I’m not sure I completely buy that but the larger point is evident: you don’t have to consider all opinions. Not everyone is going to like what you do.
  6. And most importantly, your value as an editor, as an artist, as a person, should never be based on the failure or success of a rough draft. Or even the final piece, for that matter. Easy words to write but much harder to embrace.