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“Leaving aside the horrible, outdated WordPress build, it’s difficult to find anything on the page.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.

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