How I am taming my inner critic and launching a film that isn’t perfect

For the past several months I’ve been working on a technical challenge to get my
“old but now current” documentary, Beard Club, on Amazon.

Is your inner dialogue stopping you?

I want to share this story with you because it demonstrates how much our inner dialogue may be stopping us and ways I am managing my inner critic.

When I finished the film in 2013, I created DVDs. Remember those? Streaming was still in its infancy and my film, which I started in 2003, was shot on a video format created between beautiful film and sharp as a tack HD. In short, it looked good on an old television, the kind that aren’t flat, but not on a computer screen or HD monitor.

So I’ve been struggling with both technical and aesthetic issues, how do I get the film ready for HD and how can I manage to get the best quality?

On top of that, I’ve been struggling with the issue of what the film is about – which is a fun men and masculinity and the power dynamics of masculinity and our western culture at large.

That sounds good now, but when I first started working on the film I had my inner feminist voice in my head asking me why I was focusing on men? Didn’t they already dominate the media? What can I, as a woman, say about the subject?  

Why am I telling you and what does this have to do with sharing your story?

One of the biggest roadblocks for shy creatives is the story they tell themselves.

I realized recently that the relatively simple process of converting my film has been painful and slow for me because of the story I’ve been telling myself.

Putting myself on a strict deadline, Father’s Day, and making this my number one priority, meant I was given a front row seat to the impact of the story I’ve been telling myself.

Stories my inner critic was telling me

Here is a glimpse into the story that has slowed me down in doing the real work, that without the emotion would still be challenging but not insurmountable:

  • The film quality will prevent people from wanting to watch the film.

If they do watch:

  • What if people watch the film and don’t like it?

  • What if future collaborators what the film and decide they no longer want to work with me and I never get work again?

  • What if I make the same mistakes again?

  • What if people get upset by the technical issues and think they wasted their money?

  • What if I never figure out the best way to do anything?

Most of my thoughts are about other people’s future actions (watching or not watching) and reactions (judging me and my capabilities). A few are about the technical challenge and my lack of confidence to figure it out. 

In the meantime, I have new creative ideas I want to explore. But instead I’m sitting in my story about this film, and it is not a positive, motivating story. It makes me dread getting to work.

And if I continue down this path I’ll get the film on Amazon because I made that commitment but I won’t do the work to get people to watch the film, confirming my first story.

I saw these thoughts and realized the damage it was doing to my motivation, my enjoyment, and my ability to work on future projects. The faster I get this technical work done the faster I can jump into something I’m looking forward to creating!

Reframing the critic

So here is what I am in the process of doing. I am reframing my story.

  1. Nobody will watch: Well, I already have friends who couldn’t attend a film screening or watch on DVD (they didn’t have a player) waiting to see the film. And they are kind enough to tell me they are looking forward to seeing it.

  2. People will judge me: People will judge me whether I put my film up or not. And people will always judge my work. In the past, many people have liked the film. In fact, only a few people (non-bearded) said it was too long. I am not going to please everyone. And, no matter what I create, I won’t be able to create something that everyone will like. Nor should I strive for this.

  3. The technical issues are too hard: Oh my goodness, I’ve surmounted so many technical challenges to start, make, edit, screen the film. This is one more challenge in a long string of challenges. Don’t give up now.

When I was working on the credits last night, I saw how my measure of success has changed. Before I finished my film, I remember being in the Castro Theater in San Francisco, one of the gems of old style cinemas with high ceilings, chandeliers and large red velvet curtains. I remember looking at the credits of the film and thinking, “that is the mark of a true filmmaker, a long list of credits.”

To me it meant the filmmaker put in the effort, they collaborated, they worked professionally, they hired people and got funding.

Typing up my credits I realized the list was long. I worked with many people and interviewed many subjects. I filmed in six countries and over 12 cities. I received funding from crowdfunding and foundations. In short, I put in the work. 

Of course, my measure for success changed, as it tends to do as soon as one achieves one goal.

I can’t control the outcome of this current launch but I can control the work that I do. I put in the work to produce, direct and edit the film. Now I need to put in the work to get it out and let people know it is available.

Creating empowering stories

As I move forward with my work over this next month, I am working to tell myself new stories.

  • It is not my business how people judge me or my work.

  • I am excited for the possibilities that sharing this will bring for the audience and myself.

  • It is a fun film, filled with interesting people and interesting observations. It is worth having a place in the world.

This is my first step. The more exciting the stories I tell myself, the more fun I’ll have in getting the film done and out.

If you are stuck or moving slowly on a project you are working on, look at the stories you are telling yourself. Write them down. Are these stories fact? What can you tell yourself that will help you feel better about your work and more excited to move forward?

Now I am getting back to my technical work. Wish me luck!