The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First feedback on DANGER WORD

We had our first screening of “DANGER WORD” Saturday night, and are over the moon.  We primarily had cheers, and a couple of very sober, excellent critiques.  And spoke to Reggie Hudlin last night and HE also had input to make.   A few things arise from the current situation clearly:

1) We have a winner.  People love it, and a few sharp-eyed folks see ways for us to make it even better.

2) The primary critique is that IF there is a way to make it shorter while preserving the emotional “punch” we should do it.

3) Award-winning Filmmaker Ayoka Chinzira suggested a very specific way to tighten, and explained why.   Part of her suggestion had to do with the “visual poetry” of film, which is slightly different from the primarily linear approach to story that my conscious mind prefers.  There is a “dream logic” to it, and I realized that I needed to SHUT UP that part of my mind, and listen to what she was saying.

There is a time for the conscious mind to work.  And then there is a time to just let yourself “feel” your way through the process.

This ability to move back and forth between your conscious, direct goals and the “texture” or interstitial emotional material that your audience actually consumes.  To look at it another way, plot is the “bones.”  But…we don’t eat bones.  We eat meat.   The meat is the emotions, and they are non-linear, associative, illogical, and constantly blind-side you.

Plot is important, but the emotions are what they must deliver.  A seriously advanced writer can write simply following images and feelings, and deliver something that is exquisitely structured.  We mere humans need the bones.  Goals are critical for the same reason, unless you are one of those advanced, intuitive souls who just awaken in the morning, follow your bliss, and find yourself fulfilling all obligations and constantly improving and expressing yourself.  I’ve met a few of these people, and usually they were folks who DID plan and set goals at an earlier time in their lives…but have integrated goals, values, and dreams to the point where it is automatic.

The conscious in the service to the unconscious. The logical in service to the emotional.   Total attention to the nuts and bolts of learning to ride a bicycle in service to the inevitable “look Maw!  No hands!” moment we all seek.


Another lesson to learn is that we need the input of other minds.  One of the most precious things about life is constantly surrounding yourself with the best, most challenging and perceptive people you can find.  AND THEY MUST BE COURAGEOUS.   I watched Ayo’s face, and she was reluctant to speak.  Why?  Because the rest of the room was raving about what they’d seen.  But probably more importantly, because SHE DIDN’T KNOW HOW WE WOULD REACT.

Many artists SAY they want brutal feedback, but they can’t actually handle it.  They don’t have enough genuine confidence in themselves to be able to hear that something isn’t perfect.

A mature human being doesn’t want to “think” they are good. They want to actually BE good.  The best they can be.  And that means they must accept criticism without expanding it to a global condemnation.   (Can’t leap to: “it all sucks!”  This is childish and indicative of binary thinking.   I see this in political arguments: criticize anything about America, and you are saying “America is the worst country in the world.”  Oh, please.)

I know I have blind spots in every area of performance.  If I don’t get feedback from people who love me ruthlessly, I will never be the artist I can be.   I cannot solicit critique and simultaneously protect my ego.   I have to associate with the dream of being my best, not the illusion that I already am.

It is a delicate balance, indeed.  



Shady_Grady said...

Glad to hear this. I just got my Danger Word T-shirt!

Rory said...

Got mine in the mail yesterday, Steve. I'll wear it at Orycon.