Last weekend, at the Southern Documentary Fund (SDF) 2017 Artists Convening, in Durham, N.C., a participant brought up the issue of handling criticism.
It is a topic that people who work in film and video face often. It’s an industry that invites criticism, no matter what role you’re playing in the process. The critics may be family, friends, employers, clients, or total strangers. The criticism may be requested feedback (as in, a works-in-progress screening) or totally uninvited (as in, harsh words from keyboard warriors online).
No matter what, criticism is a part of the reality of film and video making.
There’s good news, though. Not all criticism is a bad thing, and you can handle it like a pro.
Here are a few tips on how to handle criticism.
Validate the source.
Feedback comes in all shapes and sizes.
Before letting criticism resonate and influence your next steps, it’s helpful to check the source.
Filtering feedback through the lens of credibility will help you determine whether it’s worth your time, attention, and energy.
Is the feedback coming from someone you know, like, and trust? If so, you may opt to pay close attention to the criticism and carefully consider it. For example, if a member of your creative team speaks up while you’re in production, they may be saving you a lot of time and effort with the feedback they’re sharing on set. It’s a good time to listen closely.
But, let’s say, the critique is coming from someone you do not know, like, or trust. You may want to listen politely. Then file it away for consideration or reference later on, if you’re so inclined. Or you can choose to totally disregard the feedback if it’s irrelevant.
The choice is yours. Learning to filter the feedback is incredibly beneficial; it’ll keep you from getting too distracted or derailed.
Block the negativity.
Negative energy can be stifling.
It’s important to protect yourself as a creator – no matter what role you’re playing in the film and video making process – against negative energy that brings things to a screeching halt. There are people who thrive on negativity but that doesn’t mean you have to welcome it into your world.
There are a lot of ways you can block negative energy, depending on the circumstances.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Listen carefully when others speak. Don’t interrupt, talk over them, or get defensive about your work. Focus on listening when they share criticism with you.
- Create / encourage a good vibes only atmosphere.
- Arm yourself with responses to certain types of criticism.
- Unsubscribe or create a rule for your email inbox to filter messages that don’t serve you well.
- Block, unfriend, or unfollow on social media – especially if you’re triggered by certain posts.
For the sake of brevity, we’ve listed a few. But you should do some research on your own, test things out, and build a toolkit of methods that work for you.
Arm yourself with ways to handle criticism so you’re well prepared the next time it comes your way.
NOTE: This section is not about more serious things like bullying, sexism, racism, hate crimes, etc. If you witness or experience these things, please document and report it to the authorities.
Remember, criticism is rarely about you.
Even if feedback is coming from a valid source, it’s helpful to remember that it’s very rarely about you.
When someone shares feedback, it can be really insightful. What that person shares (and how they share it) can be very revealing. It often shines a light on what that person reveres, holds dear, or respects in their own lives. Or criticism can reveal what they reject or dislike about themselves.
For example, that person may have tried the very same thing you’re doing – but they failed. Their harsh critique may have nothing to do with you, your efforts, or your creative expression. But because it acts as a reflection of the things that they find hard to digest, they’re especially harsh with you.
So try to keep your cool when someone comes at you. If you’ve done everything to the best of your ability, you know that you can keep holding your head high. Pat yourself on the back for taking action where others didn’t.
No matter what, you’ve learned something that you can apply to your next efforts.
If you’re facing criticism or haters, it’s time to celebrate.
People don’t take the time to critique or hate on things they don’t care about. If you’re attracting copycats, harsh feedback, attention, or criticism then you’re probably doing something right.
Celebrate the milestone!
Don’t take our word for it.
Here are some relevant quotes about criticism!
“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
–Elbert Hubbard, writer
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default.”
– J.K. Rowling, author
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
What do you think?
We’d love to hear from you.
Have you experienced some harsh criticism? How’d you handle it? What tips or tricks do you keep in your back pocket? Use the comments below to share what’s on your mind and keep the conversation going.