January 15, 2013

"Don't be precious"

"Don't be precious," was the advice given by United Way director of communications Kris Owen as she spoke to my communications for non-profits class in December. The unpacking of that phrase: don't be too emotionally attached or egotistical about your creative output, because you're going to get critical feedback and your employer/client/coworker doesn't have time to deal with your hurt feelings.

It's good advice.

Skip forward a weeks. During my internship in Manitoba Theatre Centre's fantastic communications department, I proposed a different style of online trailer than MTC traditionally uses for their production of Gone With the Wind — a massive show that needs to sell tickets and could use some good pre-run buzz (and has since gotten this great review from CBC's Joff Schmidt).

With local actor Charlene Van Buekenhout and Dalnavert Museum graciously appearing on camera, I shot this test version to see if the idea would even work. It's a bit rough (shot on DSLR); bear with me.

Like the concept? I did and do (I might be biased). I hoped it would generate some interest online and drive sales, particularly in the 24- to 35-year-old demographic that MTC connects with online but doesn't see as strongly in their mainstage audience.

BUT when I pitched the idea and test trailer, it was turned down. And for good reason: the director had a different vision of the story and a different tone was going to appear onstage. If people saw my trailer and showed up expecting a dark drama, they would be disappointed (or worse) at being misled.

While I wasn't exactly torn up about the decision, it did have an impact. And I had to ask myself if I was being too precious. What is the line between being both emotionally and intellectually committed to your work and being precious?

I think it has to do with losing focus. The end goal of MTC is not to celebrate Matthew P. TenBruggencate (Esq.) and his work; it's to move Manitobans with the power of live theatre. Taking the eyes off the overall prize  the team is working toward leaves you concentrating on your own particular job and output. When that output is your whole focus — and who doesn't over-identify with their job in North America these days — not only will critical feedback seem like a roadblock, it will touch a nerve.

But I'm not sure how to balance of being committed to my "creations" and focused on the overall goals. Some of my favourite past projects have had tremendous personal investment; blood, sweat and — when critical feedback came — the odd tear. How do you live the balance?

That's how this blog post ends — with questions for you, because I don't have the answer. What's the difference between advocating for your work and being a crybaby? Are there any projects you invested your heart in only to see get the axe? Or have you had people working for you who just could not take feedback?

Actually we won't end there. Here are the alternate videos I made for GWTW - running until Feb 2 at MTC.

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