Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors. Not all of his movies are necessarily great, but on the other hand he is doing about one good movie constantly every year. He explained his work ethic in the recent interview:
“I’m lazy and an imperfectionist. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese will work on the details until midnight and sweat it out, whereas for me, come six o’clock, I want to go home. I want to have dinner. Filmmaking is not [the] end-all be-all of my existence”
The comment raises important point. Does it make sense to try to be perfect? Woody Allen is naturally superbly talented and even a half-hearted attempt from him is way better than from majority of directors. Would you want your legacy to be around 50 good movies (as a director and even more as a writer) or just one excellent (and maybe couple of unfinished ones)? Is your good other people´s excellent? If you have tendency to perfectionism, you are the harshest and quite often the most unfair judge of your own work.
There is a balance in perfection and production output. The more you try to perfect, the less you produce.
Dr. Dre just announced that after 16 years in making his magnum opus “Detox” will never come out:
“I didn’t like it. It wasn’t good. The record, it just wasn’t good. I worked my ass off on it, and I don’t think I did a good enough job.”
It is great virtue to be self-critical, but should you cut your losses earlier? Naturally Dr. Dre did not exactly just sat on his laurels during that time, but still. Maybe you should realize that you are not making the masterpiece earlier? Or maybe you just should be less self-critical? Woody Allen makes this exact point:
“My problem is that I’m middle class. If I was crazy I might be better. If I shrieked on the set and demanded, it may be better, but I don’t. I say, ‘Good enough!’ It’s a middle-class quality, which does make for productivity.”
Maybe we need less wannabe perfectionists and crazies reaching desperately for the perfect work in our industry and more people, who can churn good stuff out constantly.