Recently, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany. One of the hardest things for me about being the editor of a low-budget filmmaking is magazine is that I judge myself and my work much, much more harshly than I would if I were not. All of my own errors and mistakes seem glaringly awful, which in turn feeds into a cycle of perfectionism which, if not checked, can completely lock up my creative abilities.
As many of you know, here at MFM we’ve been helping spearhead the World of Depleted Creative Community, a post-apocalyptic genre-based world that really pushes the boundaries of low-budget filmmaking. Obviously, if we’re spearheading something, the core group needs to be involved in creating something in that world. As such, I and part of my core team volunteered for the creation of a series of film arcs that follow Jenna Whitmore, a former reporter who was never supposed to survive the end of the world. The first short film in this arc, Day 419 (which is currently being released serially on our YouTube page and which we will be submitting to film festivals in the near future), is just over 20 minutes in length, features a complex slow-motion gunfight and knife fight, and was created for less than $2,000—but it took over a year and a half from conception to completion. Were there times that my perfectionism started to get in the way? Definitely. However, the actual release of the film wasn’t the biggest problem…the biggest problem was any form of video and publicity information about the movie.
While we released a number of different teasers in the creation process, very few podcasts were actually created to let people get to know us better as filmmakers. This is because I so wanted everything to look as professional as possible that any podcasts I would record couldn’t be uploaded to YouTube until I had put in fonts, color corrected them, tweaked the audio, denoised the audio, added music, etc. While it’s good to want things to look good, when you’re shooting a podcast on a cheap camera, all of these post-production steps is sort of like putting lipstick on a pig. What was worse than that, it used up creative energy that would best be spent elsewhere and, more importantly, it locked up lots and lots of podcasts that were just never released because I didn’t have the energy to do all those steps on top of helping build the site, community, running the legality of everything with a lawyer, and continuing the official post-production requirements of the film.
Of course, as any creative knows, if you start jamming up the creative process with your own neuroses and perfectionism, before long, you start to lose it. First, writer’s block becomes a major problem, followed soon after by an inability to focus or even to see the forest for the trees, and, finally, before long, you want to either throw yourself out a window or just give up on everything you love! If we work through what’s actually going on, we can break through these problems (with the right help, of course), but it often times is slow going.
After a recent breakdown where all the temporary realities of life overwhelmed me, I realized I needed to come up with a more assertive way to break through my perfectionism…and, as so often happens here at MFM, to do it a public manner, as a sort of exhibitionist therapy! From this was birthed the new “The Lo-Fi World of Depleted Podcast.” The requirement was this: It had to be shot on my 3GS iphone (which only has an SD video camera) and there were to be no special lights, no special mics, no tripods, no edits, no titles…and no crap. It forced me to think outside the box to set up shots (especially since the 3GS doesn’t have a mirrored camera like the 4G does) and adjust my own volume, rather than knowing that I could make it all sound pretty good through Izotope RX or Nectar. (Both of which are awesome and we will be reviewing them in a future issue, but, again, anything that has to go post unleashes all the perfectionist demons in me!) While I could trim the beginning and ending of the clips, I couldn’t do anything more than that from editing perspective, so it also changed how I spoke. Further, because there were no edits and I was trying to not make things sound better than they were, I was willing to go back to the type of authenticity I prefer. If I was excited about new things in the World, I would go off on it. (As viewers can see in one podcast that I recorded while I drove my battered vehicle to work while talking about the perils of post-apocalyptic beverage creation!) If I was irritated or upset about something, I tried to just be real about it. (For example, in my most recent podcast, as the new episode of Day 419 went up, I talked about the fact that, even though I love what WordPress can do for social information sharing, for content hosting as we do at Depleted, it often makes me want to drive my head through a wall!)Obviously, my authenticity never was designed to insult others or show things they’d prefer to keep hidden, so I was very conscious of that.
While this is still a fairly new development, I can already see a major difference in my creativity and my enthusiasm for the work I’m doing as I am now making a way to get out information that needs to be out there with out waiting for a time to be perfect.
At the end of the day, we want our passion projects to be as great as they can be. However, with a little self-awareness, we can cut down on the creativity we are leaching away to things that are less important.
If you’d like to see our lo-fi podcast and see how it all works out, be sure to check out the World of Depleted YouTube page.