“The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.” – St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers
Wrapping up this series I wanted to focus on one idea – the idea to pursue excellence in the work that you do.
Since making movies is an “all hands-on deck” situation, a labor intensive, time consuming collaboration, it’s easy to look at aspects of the process and think that cutting corners on quality is OK. You will always be making compromises, that’s just the way it evolves. But it’s key, that once the “new reality” choices have been made, always do them as best as possible, even though it may not be the ideal situation.
“Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better. “–Pat Riley, one of the 10 Greatest Coaches in the NBA history.
Perhaps my attention to detail goes back to my training as a musician. I had a great teacher who, when teaching me various picking patterns on the guitar, insisted that I go back until I perfected the pattern with no mistakes, however x number of times he instructed. It forced me to continue working until those patterns were second nature to my fingers, even though my interest level waned. I took that course of ruthless learning into everything that I do.
I’ve been fortunate in my career that I’ve been able to move from project to project for over 20 years. Occasionally, someone asks if there is any secret is to keeping the phone ringing and the great projects coming through. Number one will always be – do great work. Other important things include, don’t nickel and dime the client, and, importantly, if it’s a train wreck, honor your initial involvement and then get out of there.
For finding work, it’s all about networking. I turn over every rock, every week, looking for new projects, new colleagues, new challenges, new learning. We hold monthly networking meeting in Santa Monica at Los Angeles Post Production Group (LAPPG). I’ve found all sorts of colleagues there where we can swap great ideas and share leads for work.
Beyond that though, I stay as diligent as possible on every project, making sure to cross each T, and to dot each i. My clients see the dedication that I put into each of their projects, and they respond positively to that.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek. “ –Mario Andretti, the United States Driver of the Year in three decades (1967, 1978, and 1984)
My daughter wrote a paper for school on the author Carol Dweck. She is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Professor Dweck has a theory about, what she terms, fixed mindset and growth mindset. She and her colleagues wanted to have a better understanding about students’ attitudes regarding failure. The Professors noticed that some would fail, but they would quickly rebound and try new things to reach the goal. They also noticed a different group of students, these individuals, when presented with even the slightest obstacle, would avoid challenges and give up easily.
The good news is that Dweck found that changing mindsets is not only possible, but relatively simple, and developed a training called Brainology. They found that the new growth mindset substantially increased students reading and math scores. Without knowing it, I’ve been a growth mindset all along. I think in my own pursuit of excellence, I am always naturally looking at each challenge as an opportunity to learn and try new things. It’s worth an internet search on growth mindset, it’s always nice to find unique ways to improve!
Thinking about all the talented people who’ve been a part of this series, I know that each one is personally dedicated to excellence. Vickie Sampson and Jackie Johnson are dedicated to the perfect dialog edit. (Or whatever can be managed…with the takes in hand.)
Millie Iatrou and Ai-Ling Lee find excellence as a team of supervising sound editors, with an Oscar nod for their work on the feature film “LaLa Land.” They are the first female supervising sound editor team of women nominated in this category by the Academy. Actress, writer, producer, Foley artist, Monique Reymond shared how she finds excellence in the smallest details. Each one of these consummate artists discussed their own pursuit of excellence in the work that they do.
Always take the extra moment, to be sure that everything in your work is the best that it can be. It may not be perfect but it’s the best that you can do with it in your power and that is your artistry. The craft of post audio requires many skills, one of the main ones that get lost in the discussion is artist. Storyteller with sound.
This series, 28 Weeks of Audio, is dedicated to discussing various aspects of post production audio using the hashtag #MixingMondays.