Perfectionism, Schmerfectionism | Script Revolution

Perfectionism, Schmerfectionism


I've known a few perfectionists in my life and, as a result, I consider myself lucky to be what I call an "eighty-percenter" - someone who can get great results fast and comfortably walk away before it gets too intense. Perfectionism is often overly romanticised and typically an incapacitating burden for those plagued by it. In this article, Ville Nummenpää makes a good argument for choosing our heroes wisely and keeping the pedal to the metal with both eyes fixed on the creative horizon - CJ

Remember Chinese Democracy? 11 years and 13 million dollars went into making that album. With that kind of dedication, it must be something out of this world, right?

Now it’s easy to gloat from a distance, but I dare you to find anyone calling Chinese Democracy the best Guns N’ Roses album ever.

So was it worth it? Is it perfect? Impossible to speculate, but I will anyway: With or without the usual gang, Guns N’ Roses could have made six or seven equally good albums in that same time.

When speaking of perfectionism, we have to bring up Stanley Kubrick. A man who would shoot 30 to 50 takes of something mundane, like someone crossing the street. You know, to get a perfect shot. I dare you to find someone who can appreciate the perfection of said street crossing.

Kubrick could spend a decade on a single movie, and the result was often pretty damn good... But perfect? You can still find a shadow of a helicopter or something in there somewhere.

There is another word for perfectionism, and since ’wankery’ sounds a bit harsh, I’m gonna go with ’insecurity’.

Nothing is ever perfect.

Steven Spielberg makes up to five films in the time it took Kubrick to make one. So is Spielberg a lazy hack who merely phones it in? No, he’s a confident and driven artist who gets shit done? He doesn’t make perfect movies, just awesome ones.

Stephen King writes faster than I read. I wouldn’t call any of his books perfect, just astonishing and awesome at best, and well worth the read at worst. In conclusion: Mr. King is also a confident and driven artist who gets shit done.

Confidence should not be confused with self grandeur or arrogance. If anything, the very opposite. Confidence can be a sign of one’s ability to cast their ego aside, and focus on the work itself.

If we were to draw a chart describing a ratio between quantity and quality on an artist’s career, monsieurs Spielberg and King would look good. Kubrick not that great.

Spielberg has directed 38 features in roughly fifty years. Many of them are breathtakingly brilliant, some are very good, and there is not a single turkey on the list. None of them are perfect, though.

Kubrick directed fifteen features in fifty years. A couple of them are breathtakingly brilliant, and the rest are very good. None of them are perfect, though.

Please don’t take this as blasphemy, Kubrick was a genius. But it seems, even a genius can get crippled by that little goblin standing on your shoulder, making you believe nothing you do is right. This guy spent 15 months shooting a 159 minute movie? Yeah, you know which one. To make it worse, it was his last.

There is nothing in the movie to justify the length of the shoot. No one-take dance numbers, no armadas battling at sea, basically just people talking. So a professional director, armed with a top notch cast and crew should have shot it in a month. (Robert Rodriquez shot his first American feature in 13 days, because he didn’t know it can’t be done). There is no other reason for the 14 extra months, but insecurity. ”I wonder if this is good enough? Best to do it again, just in case.”

Feels bad to speak of Kubrick this way, but then again, let us remind ourselves what Shelley Duvall had to go through during the shooting of The Shining. She’s still in therapy, thanks to the merciless bullying of Kubrick. And doesn’t that click in place neatly, isn’t that what bullies are, insecure?

Is Eyes Wide Shut a fitting swansong for the career of a genius? Is it on your ’top ten works of art of all time’-list, along with Chinese Democracy?

To put it another way, would you like your career to end that way? Spending the last year of your life trying to desperately perfect something (and this is excluding the years of planning and pre-production), and coming up with something ’ok’?

In comparison, Clint Eastwood is 168 years old, and he probably shot two movies last week! They’re both likely very good, maybe the other one even a masterpiece. (As I reach the end of this sentence, he has shot another one, and King has written three awesome novels more)

That’s how I want to go out, guns blazing and never slowing down. I will always and forever give everything I do my very best, but at the same time accept the fact it won’t be perfect. This is oddly liberating.

Accept this: That thing you just wrote may be very good, but it’s not, and never will be perfect.

If you gave it your all, by definition, there’s not more to give. There will be a time to let go and move on. Helicopter shadows and typos be damned, doing your best is the best you can do.

About The Author

Ville Nummenpää's picture
Real name: 

I'm a screenwriter and a novelist. Three official credits on IMDB (There should be a couple more, who knows who updates them?). I have one 12-ep. TV-series to my name, two stage plays, five books (three for kids, two for grown-ups), and various stints here and there. Episode here, a few sketches there, short movies and short stories, etc.

I do comedy, cause I'm not funny. But why stop there? I also want to do horror, action, science fiction... in one word, entertainment.

I live...Read more



Ville Nummenpää's picture

Thank you, Bamutiire.

Sarah Nicole Faucher's picture

Thank you for the reminder: "Nothing is ever perfect."