From my days as a young college actor to now, I’ve realized the criticism comes in two basic forms… truth and opinion.
For artists, it’s important to figure out which is which.
If someone makes a comment about your project or work and it’s the truth, even if the message was conveyed with rudeness or callousness, it’s still the truth. You have to strip away the emotion and look at the comments objectively, because I’m sure on some level every artist knows what is wrong with their work. They just hope that audience won’t notice. But, if they do and they say it, don’t be offended. Acknowledge it, learn from it and move on.
The other type of criticism is opinion. Depending on the person delivering the opinion, the value you assign to the comments will vary greatly. The reality is that some people see your work and just don’t get it. And that’s okay too! You just have to discard it as opinion and potentially value-less when it comes to your growth as an artist.
I’ll never forget some notes I got on a screenplay I wrote once. The well intended reviewer of the screenplay took the time to make extensive (and by extensive I mean an all-encompassing definition of extensive) notes/suggestions on the script. As a matter of fact, their “notes” turned into a basic re-write of the first 10 pages of the screenplay.
I looked at it and said to myself “Okay, I see, they wanted to read a different screenplay.” I wasn’t offended, but as an artist I realized “they just didn’t get it.”
The only thing you can pull from that is whether or not the reason they didn’t get it is due to your ability, or inabilty, as a writer/actor/director to convey your original intentions.
However, usually, when people that don’t get it, they just don’t get it, plain and simple. They don’t connect with the characters or the style or the humor or the goal… it just doesn’t work for them. For this you nod, say thank you and move on.
So, as people continue to give feedback on Purgatory, USA and other Sonlight Picture projects, I always look for nuggets of truth from which I can learn and grow. They’re often hard to find, but when you do find them they can really help you mature as an artist.