The word perfectionist first came to mind when googling directors of movies that I had watched and loved (circa 2013, I would say). I found numerous articles and videos describing each and every one of their different work ethics. I was envious. I wanted to make a film that was as perfect as perfect can be. Over the years, I studied everything about film—the camera movements, the acting, the lighting, the sound, the pacing, so forth. I knew what seemed perfect, and what I wanted if and when I ever made anything.
I learned that one of my favorite directors was a perfectionist, which made me love him even more. Supposedly, he would...shoot fifty takes on certain scenes, audition actors numerous times, accept no improvisation, and always stick to his script. His father is a film critic, so this must make sense.
Google says, "perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection." For example, one might not finish a project or feel good about it, if it is nothing close to perfect. Most of the time due to: overthinking, self-criticism, and insecurity. A few days ago, I took a test on Psychology Today describing my level of perfectionism. My test result claimed I had a "healthy level" of perfectionism. Healthy as in: necessary to day-to-day activities, and the ideal level of sufficient. I assume this means I am not unhealthy with perfectionism but have a great balance. I swear I answered all of the questions truthfully...unless, I was subconsciously being untruthful to myself?
During the summer of 2014, I took a film class for a month at California Institute of the Arts. I was surrounded by a class of thirty and three teachers. Throughout the month, we were given four assignments to make films. I was ready at first, until shit hit the fan. I knew what I wanted to make, I just did not know how. I did not know anyone who could act well enough, sound equipment was sparse, shooting while directing seemed complicated, and editing was new to me. These were excuses. I knew what was perfect and what I could not obtain. I compared myself to everyone else in my class who appeared to already be perfect at editing and writing. Perfectionism bled into everything.
I was very self-critical, insecure, and over thought everything. I stood my ground and decided to not make anything "perfect" enough to show anyone. In a way, I gave up. I made myself appear lower than I actually was. I barely gave effort to every assignment since I was busy struggling with myself. At one point, I refused to show anything at critique (when classmates and teachers would view others work and judge). I almost got kicked out at one point.
I came out with only one film I was happy with and only because few others liked it. When leaving the school, I felt like I had stepped out of one big fucked up dream and was entering another. I remember being at the beach after and thinking I survived hell (hella dramatic, I know). I did not realize how much I had learned until a month or so later. I looked over the footage I had saved on my laptop. I could only watch a few clips without cringing. I hated what I had made and what I had learned about myself, as well as what others had saw me go through.
I still struggle to this today with perfectionism. I can't seem to make anything or do anything unless it is perfect. For making a movie: the sound, editing, lighting, acting, equipment, needs to be perfect. These are all limitless excuses. I really do not need any of these things to make something that I could love or even like. If I created something and it was not perfect—I would not want to show it to anyone. THIS is another huge excuse, that leads me to not creating anything at all. I should obviously be working well with what I have and create what I can. It seems so easy to type this, but it is not so easy to do.
Perfectionism has many positive and negative effects. The positive being that when I make something, I will want it to be perfect and will try my best. The negative being, I will not want to make anything if it is not perfect (the amount of times I used the word perfect in this piece, makes me laugh). It is time for me to stop trying to be perfect. I obviously do not have amazing equipment (I am an eighteen year old freshman in college) and need to fucking accept it. It is time to let go of my excuses and ideas of what I cannot achieve, and pursue my passion with what I have.