The Problem With Perfection / by Chris Weigl

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

That’s a very important expression both in art and in life.  Artistically, I am a perfectionist.  Being an artistic perfectionist can be a good thing; my writing is top notch, but when it comes to others areas of the production process being a perfectionist can get in the way of producing good content.  We had a weekend shoot that went very well.  Judging from the dailies it was about as close to a perfect shoot as you’re going to get.  When you get home from a shoot and analyze the footage is where you find out if your team over-performed and got you everything you needed or looked like superstars at the time, but ultimately turned out to be human like everyone else. 

We had two important shots that were not executed the way I would have liked them to be executed.  The reason (or excuse depending on how you look at it) is that I was in front of the camera and directing the crew based on what I was seeing as an actor and not based on what I was seeing as a director.  Being both in front of the camera and behind the camera is a physical impossibility, but we often see stars like George Clooney who are able to pull it off.  Truth is that – at least in my mind – these folks are masters of their craft.  Being able to execute two operations at once while maintaining the integrity of the script is a spectacular feat that doesn’t seem that hard, but logistically it really is.  I looked over the dailies from my shoot and found a couple issues that were fixable, but when I looked at the footage in its totality I realized that I had made several large errors in terms of continuity and basic direction.

As someone who prides themselves on their worth ethic, it is toughest for me to analyze these shortcomings and come to a sensible solution because there is such a pervasive feeling of failure that accompanies these basic lapses in filmmaking.  I’ve been in the business long enough that I should know to look for these errors, but at the end of the day we’re a small operation and that works great for lining up shots and executing the shoot, but it also means less eyes on set and fewer people to scrutinize shots and the quality of the shoot.  I’ve found that it’s less likely for a crew member to speak up when there is an issue because we’re a close team and no one wants to let anyone down when you’re doing well.  It’s tough to admit a mistake and sometimes we get so caught up in what we’re doing that we simply lose track of everything that we need to look out for. 

It seems like it should be easy to fix these basic problems on set.  The truth is though that thinking something through, planning it; and executing it are three different things.  It’s nearly impossible to do all three things correctly when you’re the one in charge of all of them.  I’m not sure how to prevent these problems from happening other than to re-dedicate myself to what I’m trying to achieve behind the camera.  I’m not used to being on camera so adjusting to that alone was difficult, but hopefully I won’t have to direct anything I’m in for a while because I need to focus on being a better, more detail-oriented director.  The truth is that sometimes you simply can’t get the perfect shot.  Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.  This proves to be especially true when you’re the writer, director, actor, producer, and editor.  That’s just too many hats for one person to wear, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to make the production happen at all.  In such situations however it is advisable to remember the simple slogan that begins this piece.