Time To Screw it Up. February 11, 2013

Seriously, if you’re working in film or video or really any sort of craft that requires a ton of experience, it’s time to start embracing mistakes.

One of the best pieces of advice I got in film school was from Alex Lindsay (the founder of the incredible PixelCorp Inc. in San Francisco) when he told our production class, “you’re going to make at least 10,000 mistakes before you’re good, so you better get starting fucking things up now.”

I’ve heard this over and over in the business and from some of the best. Philip Bloom has mentioned in his blog on multiple occasions the number of mistakes that he made on his way to becoming one of the most respected voices in independent film:

“You WILL fuck up. Guaranteed. Accept it. Fucking up whilst in a staff job is better since, unless it’s pretty serious, you will still have a job. Fucking up as a freelance is tougher, as your client will need to be forgiving. Ideally you already have a relationship with them and they will understand. Don’t blame someone else. Take responsibility. It’s your mistake and you won’t make it again. That’s the great things about fuck ups. I fucked up SO many times in my news career. Mute sound, wrong colour, crossing the line, forgetting to hit record, handing over a blank tape and recording over the rushes. You name it and I have done it. But you know what? I only do each mistake once. The only way you will learn is by making mistakes, admitting them, and learning from them. Don’t go though life thinking you are perfect and never make mistakes. That doesn’t happen in the real world. Don’t make excuses. You fucked up. Take the blame and move on. I still fuck up to this day.”

The most important part of that above statement is to remember that we all screw stuff up, but to take responsibility for the mistakes and then never do it again. The first time I was put in charge of shooting a simple set of executive presentations for a major stockholder meeting, I checked the levels of my wireless lav’s, hit record and then took my headphones off, only to find out when I looked at the footage, once the in house PA system was turned on, it overloaded my lav signal and rendered all my in camera audio useless. Not a fun conversation to have with the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. I’ve left an entire production’s tape stock on the bus, forgotten to focus a multi-hour timelapse, given the wrong address to a camera crane, put the wrong version of a script into the sides for a 150 person crew, published video without sound, forgotten to provide vegetarian craft services to my lead actress, run out of gas on the way to location…the list goes on and it’s not pretty.

Let’s just say I’ve been privy to more than a few instances of yelling in my career and many of those times should have resulted in my being fired. I would have fired myself in most of those instances. Point being is that once I had an AD or producer shred my already fragile sense of self-worth, I never repeated that particular mistake again.

It’s going to hurt, no question about it, but it’s a pain that comes with a built in silver lining. The more you screw up, the more you learn, the tighter your craft gets and the better you become at making your work as professional as it can be.

Then again there are some folks that just don’t learn:



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