Articles by Saskia Wilson-Brown

On failure, in filmmaking

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

It’s sometimes really, really hard to be a creative person in a money-needing world, ‘innit?

Say you’re a filmmaker, kind of broke, and you finally get that gig that you need to pay your rent. You’re pretty stoked (actually, you’re VERY stoked), and you show up on the day of the shoot and do your best to shoot it to the specs provided by the client– allowing yourself one or two creative divergences when everything starts to feel just a bit too…. corporate. You go home happy.

When you examine the footage the following morning, your heart sinks.

Due to one of those creative divergences you allowed yourself, the main subject is backlit. The client – who just wanted a simple interview and reminds you briskly that he made that eminently f-ing clear – is totally pissed. You feel like a failure, an amateur, and wonder what the hell inspired you to even think you could do this in the first place.


The realization of one’s own mistakes is hard. Even when one has an intimate understanding of the complexities that informed them, a self-defense mechanism kicks in and one becomes immediately inclined to blame. The client has no vision. The machine broke. I must really really REALLY suck. The light seeeeemed fine when I shot it. Whatever.

In truth, we all know that our angry blaming behavior – whether directed at the client or at ourselves – typically comes when issues aren’t being properly addressed within our own brains or when we just didn’t read the damn manual on the lighting kit. We find ourselves powerless, our knowledge lacking, unable to advance, and the voice in our head whispers, cruelly ‘This is all. your. fault.’ And the hard truth is that a lot of our failures – not all of them but a lot of them – are in our own control. This of course makes us feel extra-shitty when we fail: Not only did we fail, but we also double-failed by letting ourselves fail.

Incongruously, and counter-productively, when faced with the problems that we confront in our lives as filmmakers & artists, lethargy tend to kick in. A person is clearly better served by plastering on a big smile and adopting a kick-ass attitude, and starting over (doing things exactly as instructed this time). And yet we find ourselves straying from the line, griping about the client, and semi-seriously daydreaming about a new career as a florist.

And that, my friends, is what leads to a real, actual lack of success – or at least has led to mine. When you walk away, take the easy route, give up.

Sometimes, upon further reflection, those little failures – the ones that lose us the job but prove that at least we’re in the game – are the better alternative.