Thursday, September 13, 2012

Art is subjective.

Utah Women in Film recently announced the winner of our annual screenwriting contest (I couldn't enter since I serve on the Board of Directors). The submitted screenplays were given scores by a panel of judges. The scores were all over the place. A screenplay could score high with one judge while another judge ranked it low. After sifting through the results, the top six were given to each of the board members to read, then we met to discuss which one we would produce. And, like the judges, our opinions were all over the place. What one person considered a beautiful moving story, I considered sappy. What I considered well-written with a compelling story, others considered dull. One well-crafted story was rejected because it was too similar to what we recently produced. I rejected another because we don't have the budget to film a complicated scene within the screenplay. (Hey, as Treasurer, I have to consider these things.)

Art is subjective, and it's maddening at times. I can send a screenplay to a festival or competition, but where it goes from there depends on the opinions and whims of the readers. It might not even make it to a judge, and even if it does, it is at the mercy of their views and what they are looking for.

There are times when I envy those with predictable jobs. Go to work. Do the work expected. Get paid. There are times I wish I worked in data entry. Take the information, plug it into the fields. It's all objective. As Treasurer, I find satisfaction in balancing to the penny; it means I did something exactly right. It's either right or it's wrong. No guessing. No whims.

But no fire.

Art is subjective, yet for some of us the desire to create burns so deeply we must do it anyway. Shoot the work down, tear it apart, criticize it... yeah, it hurts... but we'll keep on creating because it hurts worse not to.

A room full of writers gathered when UWIF announced the winner of the screenwriting contest. Only one earned the honor of having the script produced. Many felt disappointment, but in reality they are all winners in the battle of the arts, and they will keep on writing.


  1. You are right on the money with this post. I took an online creative writing class this summer. One of the things our instructor had us do is submit our homework into a central inbox so that others could read it and comment. There was to be no criticism. I only submitted 2 or 3 of my writings and then opted from submitting them. I still did the exercises but I didn't really feel the need to have others "praise", or worse, not say anything at all about my work. I write for myself. If I were doing it for a job, it would be a completely different story. But, I realize that art, in whatever form, is deeply personal. That artists put their work out there for everyone to see and in hopes of selling it makes my stomach turn in knots. I don't know how they (you) do it!!!

    I'll just watch from the sidelines, thank you very much. :-)

    1. It's tough, for sure! When I was studying screenwriting in school, we had to bring pages in for the class to read. We sat around a huge table and the writer assigned parts, "Here, you read Joe, and will you read the part of Jane..." Then the pages were read aloud, followed by critiquing. The first time I shared my work I was soooo nervous, I thought I was going to throw up, and I literally trembled at the table as my pages were read aloud.

      I had to learn to filter the feedback and accept the comments that were helpful, and reject (silently) the ones that did not ring true to my story.

      You said it's worse when no one says anything, and I agree there. OUCH!