I had an argument with my co-producer the other day about our short film. While most have said they really enjoyed the short, find it hilarious, etc., a few have found it "a little slow" and suggested we cut it down by a minute or two. Generally, I would agree (when it comes to shorts, less is almost always more...) but in this case, re-cutting the film might shave off 45 seconds or so, but it would not change the substance of the film very much. My partner, however, disagrees, and wants to try it. We have not had much success with the festivals, thus far, and he thinks maybe there is a reason. Don't get me wrong: I want to put out the best film I can. And you can always make a film better. But that's the problem. At a certain point, you have to accept the film much like your own child (if I had one): it will never be perfect, you will see its strengths and its flaws, but there is only so much you can fix. One day, you have to send it out into the world to see if it can survive on its own.
It's always possible that I was being over-eager to kick my "child" out of the house because I have other, more attractive, more interesting "children" (i.e. feature films) that I want to start making. But, being a fairly open-minded person, I told him that I don't have a problem with trying to come up with a new version; I always want my films to be as good as possible.
That's where it got interesting: "Okay," he said. "But I don't think you should be the one to re-edit the film. I want to get somebody else to do it."
"I see...," I replied. "And why do you want to do that?"
"Because you're too close to it. We need someone with fresh eyes who can really come in and run with it. Make some big changes."
That was when I started to get pissed. I don't have a problem getting a new editor (I know that it is easy to get too close to your material until you can't make the right decisions anymore), but NOW? We had locked the picture, mixed the sound, made masters of the tapes for the upcoming festivals, all with virtually no money. Now you want to find some magical person to cut the film? Not only some extremely talented editor with a knack for comedy, but someone who is also FREE?
I laughed in the most pompous, arrogant way I could. "If you can find an editor who is good and willing to re-cut this movie for free, be my guest," I said. "I'll give you a week to find someone." "Fine," he said. Silly rabbit, I thought to myself. This guy is dreaming.
Later that night, I went to a party at a friend's place, where a bunch of people were showing their short films, projected on the living room wall. I brought mine along too and before long the opening credits were on the screen. We'd had screenings before, but I had not been in the room, and I was suddenly nervous. Comedies are tough for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that you actually hear how people respond. If they don't laugh and the room is silent at a moment when you were sure they would laugh, it can be excruciating. Of course, I knew the movie was funny and felt confident about it, but nevertheless, there were a few spots where I cringed. Not because of what was on the screen but because I had been wrong. Some things just were not as funny as I had hoped.
After the movie was over, the entire room exploded in applause. People loved the film and came up to me to tell me that they thought it was hilarious. It felt good to hear such approval and I thanked them. But I couldn't help but feel, once again, like a parent who is proud, on the outside, of their child but inside knows that the kid may not be as smart or as charismatic as the parent had hoped. Not a failure, certainly, but not the superstar either. There would be no major accolades, no big awards, but most people would like him. Think he was "nice" or "pretty funny" or "above average."
That's probably why artists have to keep creating. Because no work is ever perfect and it's far better to move on to the next project than to dwell on the failures or successes of the past. Learn and try again and learn some more and try again. Repeat. And hopefully, at the end of it all, when the artist is in his or her final days, they can look back at their body of work and feel that although they never made a masterpiece, they created some interesting and unique pieces of work that shared their point of view and became a part of the world's treasure chest of creative material.
So he's got four days to find somebody to re-cut the film. After that, this kid is headed out into the world and there's no turning back.