Better yet… what is the purpose of your critique concerning other people’s work?
I had the recent displeasure of having to listen to a very creative person give every reason in the book for tossing out a good project based on the criticism they received from their peers. This involved a private machinima project not a commercial job and I was really blown away by the fact that this person had let a group STOP them from telling their story.
I mean really… is this what criticism is for?
That certainly is a loaded question and relative to the situation at hand but stop and think about it. What is criticism for? Is it to improve, to move forward, to stop, to discourage? I’m sure we’ll all pick the more positive points but how many times do we actually do the negative and what is the effect on the creativity of the team or individual being critiqued? What did the critique accomplish?
I realize that I am simplifying the concept in the extreme because criticism is universal to every human being but there is a world of difference in the critiques I receive based on my professional work versus most critiques I see in the machinima crowd.
While there are great critiques being given most miss the fact that it is the machinimist story to tell… not theirs. Instead of critiquing in a manner that improves and moves the story forward they pick apart the story based not on inconsistencies, technique, continuity or artistic talent but rather how THEY think the story should be told.
I’m walking a fine line with this reasoning as critiques are relative to lot of different factors and viewpoints but POINT OF VIEW makes a huge difference. I also realize that my opinion on critiques is not the end all of the discussion… just another opinion in a sea of them.
My basic question concerns how we give a critique. Do we do so based on how we would do the project or do we try to get on board with their vision instead of our own? Help them improve their project based on their goals and not ours? If you work in production the answer is simple. You get on board with their vision relying on your skills and techniques to help improve it. If you don’t get on the same page you will not be a part of that project much longer so freelancers learn this immediately and that might give some of us a different perspective from the average machinimist.
Some things I have learned over the years from some extremely talented people:
- Identify CAVE people – Critics Against Virtually Everything – as they really don’t add much to the conversation but shouldn’t be ignored as any input is important… the input just needs to be identified and classified for what it is.
- Do not take critiques personally! Not even when aimed at you as a personal attack which is not a critique anyway so ignore it. Those type of critics only have the power over you that you grant them so let it roll off your back and move on.
- Identify critics that are constructive and learn from them while… as stated earlier… still listening to the destructive critics on the chance they will say something that will actually IMPROVE your project.
- Keep in mind when giving a critique it’s not your vision but theirs and help them improve and achieve it instead of rewriting it.
- Find a core group of peers from all skill levels that will be honest and on board with you when critiquing your work.
- Cheerlead when necessary. Most of my comments are not critiques as I’m not comfortable doing that. I’m a cheerleader as you can tell. I look for the positive or don’t say much at all. Anyone’s work can be picked apart anytime and positive comments are easily identified for what they are… encouraging the artist. Cheerleading is not evil.
- Don’t rag on them… write! Be concise with advice that can be followed instead of some pie in the sky abstract concept.
- Hold a very critical eye to your own work. Use the same standard or higher when judging your work. Some of the best machinimist and animators I know do not like their own work so this not unusual.
- Listen to all input but classify that input in terms of what it is and deal with it in that manner. If you react properly to the critiques you will soon find you are being more pro-active as time goes on and thereby eliminating recurring criticisms along the way.
- One more time.Help them tell THEIR story and use criticism that helps you tell your story and forwards your vision. It can’t be said enough. Your machinima project is just that… yours! Run with it not from it because some people may not like this or that.
With this in mind when I do give a critique I don’t try to stifle or stop, don’t critique for the sake of just pointing out flaws. I try to help move the project forward and help the machinimist complete their vision in the most professional manner possible.
My soapbox is getting rather tall at the moment so I’d better sign off and find a ladder so I can climb down from here and get back to work. All this preaching has worn me out.