Advice And Consent

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019-07-13 21:00:00 No comments

Nice interview, but this bit in particular caught my eye:

Tom Skerritt on the 40th Anniversary of Alien, Collaborating with Ridley Scott and More | Interviews | Roger Ebert

The more that a writer puts into making a solid screenplay, that inspiration goes to the director and goes to the creative people and everyone becomes engaged with it. It isn’t one single thing—it is the harmony that happens on a set and that goes back to Hal [Ashby] and Bob [Robert Altman]. They would say, “That’s a good suggestion. I don’t know if I am going to use it but because you said it, you made me think of this other thing.” There is no right or wrong about this. It is what you listen to and how you separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. That is just an instinct writ from the experiences that you have had. I have had the mind-boggling opportunity to do some significant films and those were because of the filmmakers—they gave it to us. You cannot tell creative people how to paint a portrait. You can’t tell them that you want a particular color to suit the image that you have—you can’t do that. If you do, you don’t deserve the artwork.

Emph mine, in big part because it points back at my earlier posts about how hard it is to find and work with good advice.

When someone says to me, about some work of mine they've read, "Why did you do X?" or "Why don't you do X?", there's a fair chance -- probably 40% of the time (number pulled from my heiney, I admit) -- that they are mostly just trying to bash the work into conformance with their own expectations, and not because they think the advice or suggestion will produce a genuinely better work, one that is more distinctly in line with its own intentions.

This is not something I trot out as a way to pretend to take other peoples' advice and then promptly ignore it. It's a filter for advice, because most advice is subjective whether or not the giver knows it, and very little advice is about making good on the promise of the work.

The very best advice I've received, or seen given, was not a command -- do this, don't do that. It was a seed for discussion: it seems like you did this because X, and the implications of that are Y. Again, that's advanced analysis, something few people equip themselves to provide. (And some that a few think they can provide, but can't, not really.)

If there is any one thing that seems to separate the real creative masters from the rest of the folks who scribble or daub or pluck or point a camera, it's the accrued sense of confidence and centering in the meaning of the choices that constitute their work. They know why everything is there, and if they don't know why a given thing is there, they know it's springing from someplace deep and genuine within themselves and the rest of the work is constructed to support that.

The flipside of this confidence is arrogance, the idea that you have nothing further to learn, especially not from people who have no formal training. That's no good either, in big part because it puts you inherently at odds with some of the people you could benefit most from (and vice versa). If someone doesn't like your work but can't put your finger on why, you owe them at least a hearing as to what makes them squirm. It may not change that work, or any of your other work, but at least it's a way to unclog your own ears a little. A habit worth protecting.

Tags: advice creativity creators