Without the ego there would be no art, no motivation to face challenges and seek rewards for creating original works. Jackie Gleason, best remembered for helping to create and starring The honeymooners – One of the first and most successful sitcoms in television history – once said, "If I didn't have a huge ego and monumental pride, how the hell could I be a performer?" Marlon Brando once defined an actor as "a man who, if you don't talk about him, won't listen". And Michael Douglas said that "actors are paid to be selfish and selfish". There are exceptions, of course – actors whose modesty is unmistakable – like Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro, the latter of whom once said, "There's nothing more insulting to me than watching an actor deal with his ego." As a rule, the general public practically expects the actors to have a somewhat inflated ego.
The same applies to film directors, who are seldom models of humility. It is of course important that the directors are determined and fully responsible, but these qualities sometimes turn into a tyrannical arrogance in dealing with actors, as is said to be the case with directors like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, James Cameron and Lars von Trier. Ingmar Bergman took a completely different approach: “When I started in the 1940s, my professor told me that a director should listen and shut up. It took me a long time to understand that I was talking too much. Now I know that you should listen with your ears and your heart. “Scorsese also steers lightly and with respect for the sensitivity of his actors, without imposing his will, as this description by Rosanna Arquette clearly shows on the basis of the film After business hours (1985): "Marty Scorsese is never negative. He said," Do you think you should laugh in this scene? "Oh, no Marty, I can't see where she would laugh." Oh yes, you're right. Forget that I ever said anything. "He does it very subtly: as if he had planted the seed, watered it and split it. While I was making the scene, I don't know where it came from, but I just started laughing."
Professionals who have survived in the industry have generally learned to deal with their own ego problems in a way that is consistent with successful work. But young people making their first short films may not be prepared to keep the ego from hurting their productions, mainly in these three ways.
- It's all too easy to fall in love with each of your own ideas – good and bad – during the script development, filming, or editing process. And it's much harder to let go of those who are wrong for your movie, to kill your darlings, if the ego is not checked. Short films have to be cut to the bone to tell their stories with breathtaking cost-effectiveness. Ego is likely to result in what appears to viewers as empty filler unnecessarily complicating and elongating the film, with every additional twist or detail putting an incalculable burden on the film.
- Even the director of a short film should ideally be a team player and not expect to be treated like a god by the rest of his crew. Listening openly to constructive suggestions at every stage can help save a production that is otherwise doomed. And the ego too often stands in the way of receptivity to useful suggestions when the person in charge is playing an infallible diva.
- The ability to see things through the eyes of the viewer is one of the hallmarks of a promising young filmmaker, while a lack of interest in anything other than one's intentions and perspectives is likely to result in productions that the viewer may find unconvincing. At any point in time, it is important to guess how a viewer might understand a particular shot, while it is a costly mistake to confuse the intended purpose of a shot with the viewer's actual experience. Ego can make it difficult to see what you are doing as the viewers will experience it, and it can easily lead to films that are enjoyable to the filmmaker but boring or worse for the viewer. I know that many would disagree with this view, but I stand by it.
I regret the prescriptive and judgmental tone of the above, but it can nonetheless be helpful for people making their first short films who may need a kick in their pants to correct prominent assumptions about how the production process works.
The idea is not entirely ego free, which would result in not having enough drive and confidence to make a movie. Rather, the goal is to prevent the ego from doing harm, especially in the ways mentioned above. Here, as in so many other areas, it's important to find the right balance.
About Richard Raskin
Richard Raskin was born in Brooklyn in 1941 and currently lives in Denmark. His main interest was telling short films. For over 30 years he taught students at Aarhus University the art of making short films. He has served on juries and lectures at international film festivals, is the founding editor of Short Film Studies published in the UK, has written books and articles on short film, co-founded a school called Multiplatform Storytelling and Production, and wrote the screenplay for an award-winning short film, Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto.