What Have I Been Doing?

Aside from the post the other day, it’s been more than 6 months since I posted anything here. What have I been doing?

Family– Family is good. I now have two kids who have graduated from High School, one more to go. House is generally good, but we still need to finish up the mess left from the rotten balcony. We are still heavily involved in homeschool speech & debate.

Work– Work has been crazy busy. At church, we lost a video staff person and the last remaining Communications person. For 6 months, I was doing 2.5 jobs as I covered for my team’s loss and helped out with some Communication tasks. They hired a new Communications Director, so that workload was lifted.

It is really hard to hire people since the Pandemic. Very few applications, and the ones we have moved on have not worked out. Character, chemistry and competence are what we are looking for.

Freelance– I’ve been doing a few projects for Church Media Squad. Just when they need help over holidays. I have done a few other small jobs.

The biggest project is the ballet documentary. I say documentary, it’s more of a documentary-style keepsake video. So that changes things. After more than 2.5 years of shooting generally, 1.5 years of focused work, I have a 50-minute piece that covers the last 50 years of the Longview Ballet Theater in East Texas. I was hired to shoot and edit this project. I’m not a huge ballet fan, but the story is compelling. Because this a keepsake, there are parts of the video that I would likely cut if it were up to me, but the clients will like them. I am close to wrapping this project. It’s been a long time working on it.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I have some creative ideas. I’m ready to hire the open position on my team. I’m ready to finish up the house, as soon as prices come down (ha!). I am thinking about a short doc project.

So, that’s it. Hopefully it won’t be another 6 months before you hear from me again.

Being Creative is Risky

Today, I accidentally stumbled onto a review of my old comedy series. 

It’s not kind. Written in 2018, for a series that first came out in 2012, the anonymous reviewer proceeds to list many of the things I knew were deficient in the series. He (She? The whole review site is anonymous, so just guessing here) said one positive thing: “Video and audio quality, for the most part, are fine.” Oddly, I disagree with this. 

Everything else is sarcastic, critical, and somewhat deserved. My disappointment with this review is not that he didn’t like the things I don’t like, but that he missed the entire point of the show. He seemed confused that we would make fun of Christians and Christianity. He seemed to think we were being completely serious. So, he didn’t get any of the jokes. 

Of course, this review site isn’t something you would ever know. If I were reviewing the site itself, I might say…

“Leaving aside the horrible, outdated WordPress build, it’s difficult to find anything on the page. Publishing under an anonymous name does nothing to establish the author as any authority on Christian content. When it comes to series reviews, the author has only two categories- The Chosen and bad Christian series. If he is reviewing something Dallas Jenkins isn’t involved in, expect a low score.”

[OK, that was a bit cathartic. I’m aware my blog is also on WordPress, but it’s a blog… not a full-on website with multiple pages and sections.]

You see, even though I am aware of the flaws in that series, it hurts when some anonymous guy on the internet points them out AND doesn’t get the good parts at the same time. I suspect that the reviewer has never put out anything creative is his life. He has no idea what it’s like to spend hours trying to make something and send it out into the world. 

Being creative is risky. 

In a humorous twist, I also found out that both the series and short ebook about how we made the series were cited in a textbook. The book is strangely about humor in Evangelical and Mormon contexts. I would have bought a copy, but like all textbooks, it’s too expensive. I have no idea what they said about the series, except the author did reference my comments about the Christian TV market and changing the model to allow for more non-traditional content production. I could see that from an excerpt.

If you had asked me in 2012 if I thought that creative work would be cited (for good or ill) in a textbook, I would have laughed. If you had asked me if it would still be on the air or streaming a decade later, I would have said no way. It’s not on many places, but it is on. 

Being creative is risky. 

One of episodes singled out as terrible by the anonymous reviewer was the same one that NRB reviewed and awarded 2014’s Best Creative TV Programming. Now, I know there were not a lot of entries that year, so that doesn’t mean it was amazing. But the National Religious Broadcasters didn’t think it was as bad as the anonymous reviewer. Not everyone gets everything. Especially in a comedy.

Nothing you do creatively is going to appeal to everyone. [Insert one of the many, many stories of super successful people not being appreciated, getting turned down, etc…]

I’m not gonna’ lie, it sucks hard when you read that negative review. When some random person says something (that literally happened to you before) is a “trope” or isn’t believable. When he just doesn’t get what you spent so much time working on. Yes, the internet allows anonymous people to “platform” their opinions alongside more qualified reviewers. But it is inevitable that you will get a bad review, especially if your work is flawed. (And this series is seriously flawed. I am amazed at what we were able to accomplish, but it’s not amazing, itself.)

But it is very cool when you get positive feedback. Whether it’s an award, or that email from a fan saying it’s her family’s favorite Christian TV series, positive feedback feels great. My feature length documentary came out in 2019, and I still have speech & debate kids and parents tell me how much it means to them. That is a very cool, thing.

But be aware, there is no guarantee that anything you do creatively will ever get any positive feedback. You must decide what is worth the risk? Is your passion for your project enough to carry you? Your early work will be flawed. Know that. Part of growing and learning is doing. And your initial “doing” can be pretty bad. But you need that bad to get to better.

So, take the risk. Not because your current project is awesome (though it could be) but because your next project will be better.