THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

               When you’ve heard the late legendary Conrad Hall, ASC say that he was terrified, insecure and felt like a rank amateur every time he started a new film, where does that leave the rest of us?  Despite any bluster to the contrary, at heart are we really phonies, poseurs, wannabes…?

            Volumes have been devoted to deconstructing the creative process, yet no one has quite nailed it yet.  I think it’s a fool’s errand.  No less an authority than Pablo Picasso brings a unique view to the discussion, below.  He seems to have been more in on the joke than anyone could have imagined…

            “In art the mass of people no longer seek consolation and exaltation, but those who are refined, rich, unoccupied…seek what is new, strange, original, extravagant, scandalous.  I myself, since Cubism and before, have satisfied these masters and critics with all the changing oddities which have passed through my head, and the less they understood me, the more they admired me.  By amusing myself with all these games, with all these absurdities, puzzles, rebuses, arabesques, I became famous and that very quickly.  And fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortunes, riches.  And today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich.  But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term.  Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt were great painters.  I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited them as best he could…Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear, but it has the merit of being sincere.”

6.24.2022

10 thoughts on “THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT”

  1. Being art subjective, the creator is constantly insecure for the fact that he/she brings out a very personal choice and touch to the table. Every artist is naked in front of the audience, asking them to judge the work done.
    This is why no matter the experience, the creator will always feel terrified; we are exposing ourselves to the critique of the public opinion. There is nothing more scary than being in front of strangers and being judged.
    I’m about to shoot a feature in Malta and if I say I’m both excited and terrified would be an understatement; I haven’t slept in the past couple of days and I keep visualizing the lights and camera movements in my head to see if there is a better way or a more interesting angle.
    I’m scared of my craft, but I wouldn’t do anything else because the joy that this job brings me is incommensurable… maybe I’m just another type of adrenaline junkie; I don’t jump of a plane with a parachute, I shoot movies.

  2. Thanks for that great quote, Richard.
    Years ago, on the set of Dallas, one of my first shows as a second assistant , I happened to be standing next to the legendary sound mixer Jack Solomon.
    His Nagra ran out of tape during a take, and he had to stop the scene.
    He yelled for his utility to get the backup recorder.
    I watched while he reloaded, and he turned to me, “kid, this and the first camera man’s job is the biggest act in town!”
    I laughed so hard that I was in tears.
    Sometimes, I still think about that during a particularly long day….

  3. Wow. The fact that you brought these two tremendous artists together is it’s own bit of wonderful curation. Thank you. I myself always feel terrified before I test, try, gather my team, and build confidence through action. Only then can I look ahead and feel ready. I love that you are talking about inner process and not leaving it to “genius”. I think a lot about Conrad, Pablo, and Chuck Yeager all in the same context (their process). No joke.

  4. A lot of us are blessed and cursed with a large ego combined with a poor self-image… we’re driven to improve our work to the level that we think it should be at, but isn’t.

  5. Dvid – I liken it to a never ending process of chasing your own tail…

  6. Chris – I think this’s common to high level practitioners of every stripe. And that’s the reason why they’re high level practitioners!

  7. Gary – that seems like one of those lessons you can only learn through experiencing it…

  8. Luigi – the real triumph comes in doing what you do…and not caring how anyone judges you!

  9. OOOF! That Picasso quote hits! I never heard it before. Similar to what Charles de Gaulle said, “There can be no prestige without mystery, for familiarity breeds contempt.” But I wonder, in this YouTube day and age of influencers if this is still the case? We have people who talk and teach a lot about cinematography despite never setting foot on a movie set. You can watch a year of their channel and never get a sense or their aesthetics or artistic theory. But you’ll know everything they think about a new camera. You can learn almost everything about them. Camera companies love them, not because of their work, but because of how many followers and views they get. I wonder what Picasso would have thought about that? Me, I guess I am old fashioned. It’s nice to hear disguised cinematographers and artists such as yourselves still get nervous on jobs. It gives the rest of us rank amateurs a sense of solace. 😉

  10. You are correct in your assessment of that YouTube cinematography demographic. I call them “geniuses without resumè.” Despite all the flash, I don’t think there’s one of them who would know where to begin on a real life, major league set.

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