Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Mr. F

i did pretty well in school and overall liked it. but as i've become an adult and faced the various duties

and challenges of life, i've mused on the disconnect between the two: in school, there are (usually) right answers and wrong answers, and there's a teacher to tell you if you got the right one or not. if not, they'll tell you what the correct answer is.

for much of life, it's not really like that. in fact, the more i learn about more things, the more it seems that right/wrong answers are rare. it used to seem that at least going to the doctor was a clear thing: i'm not feeling well, i go to the doctor, they tell me what's wrong with me and how to fix it, i get better and the doctor gets an "A" for that visit. and while much of medicine does work that way (that's the whole point of study and education, to learn how to solve and cure ailments), there's also a reason why second opinions are important, especially in more advanced cases.

i'm not a doctor, so i won't spend any more time questioning those who went to med school, but will bring it back to what i know about. and this is where it's hard for me, because i'm used to being the A student (and, in later years, the A- minus student. by the time i was in grad school, i was completely content with being the B student.) but i don't get grades on my cinematography or my editing. at best, my client and boss are happy with the work i did, but that's not the same as getting a 100% at the top of the paper. and there are two dangers with getting an A: first, it implied that you've reached the pinnacle, that there's nowhere to go from here. and second, because you've reach the top, why try harder? with the A+, you're already the best there is. no one could be better than on that worksheet.

i was thinking about this a few months ago as i was shooting a series of interviews in our studio. for much of the day, i was lighting and setting things up under the hope that my boss would like it. i was worried that he wouldn't, and if he did, well then that was all that mattered, right?
well, two things were happening when i was doing this:  i was slightly stressed as i was trying to find the "right" lighting and, because of that, i was trying to hit a finite mark. as long as my boss said it was good, that was what i wanted.

that evening i was thinking about that and realized that i should approach this from a different way. rather than be asking myself "is this shot good? now is it good?", i should be thinking, "ok, that was a good shot, how can i make this next one better? i've done this before, so how i can try something new, or approach this in a new way?" and i should add here that that is precisely the mindset my boss does have and encourages that mentality at the company. so this pressure that i've been feeling is purely self-administered.

and it seems that i'm not the only one questioning this. that evening my dad was in town and we took him up to look at the fall colors on the mesa. during the drive up, janelle told us how there is a shift in education towards growth-based learning, where kids do more projects and are encouraged to challenge themselves, rather than everyone being asked to answer the same questions. so rather than a subject being very easy for some and very difficult for others, the hope is that students will be progressing for where they are, regardless of where they currently are. this also helps them move away from the "that's right/that's wrong" mentality and to understand that setbacks and even failure are not, heck, not failures, but are part of the growth process.

there's a scene early in "seven samurai" where the master swordsman, kyuzo, is introduced. he is described as someone who is obsessed only with testing the limits of his own skill (or something like that.) no question of "good or no good," just "and how can i be better?" and as i've thought about this, i realized that i was doing this somewhat at my student job at a&m, where i was the senior videographer. i more or less taught myself everything i learned there (at least about creating a shot), and, with no one to really tell me how to be better (and they were nearly always happy with my work, even when i wasn't), i would often spend time looking over my shots and trying to figure out how i could do the next ones better. but part of why i left that job was because i didn't have anyone to challenge me or help lift me up to the next level.

and that's where i'm at. i'm trying to adapt myself to that new way of looking at my work (and this really applies to all aspects of life, including relationships, which hadn't occurred to me until just now.)
and i've been given lots of opportunities recently to do just that at work. i've been editing footage that i shot (which is a GREAT way for a cinematographer to learn what shots work and where to improve) and also working on a commercial that i directed. it turned out fine and the client is happy with it, but during production and in post, i've created a mental list of things i wish i'd done, ways i could've prepared more, and what i want to try next time.

good, better, and... more better, right?

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