There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.- Terrence Fletcher WHIPLASH


There is a tendency to want to praise sing creative friends all in the desire to “support” and encouragement. While that is very good and welcome, as creative people need to be appreciated and encouraged. Because it is not easy to do, especially in an environment like ours.

However , when that same praise comes when the work isnt good, or outrightly messy ,is ,err, wellll.. They may think it’s support, but they are actually being an enemy of their friend’s progress and growth in their creative field.

Back in 1972, a young Martin Scorcese made a film called Boxcar Bertha, and he screened it for friends and colleauges. After the screening, indie film maestro John Cassavettes went over to Marty, put his arm over the younger director’s shoulder and said

“Marty, you’ve just spent a whole year of your life making a piece of shit. It’s a good picture, but you’re better than the people who make this kind of movie. Don’t get hooked into the exploitation market, just try and do something different.”

That kind of feedback for something he invested a year in , was not easy to hear. But instead of getting defensive the younger Director took heed and his next film was Mean Streets(1973), which was the film that not only got him recognition but was the first of many classic collaborations with Robert Deniro.

Today, many regard Scorcese as the greatest living Director.

Imagine if Cassavettes had not been frank, had told Marty that he was awesome, baddest guy ever liveth, “kip it up”. Had wanted to show support and told him he couldnt wait to see more like it.

Would Scorcese have gone on to be the director that would make Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver?

Now, please dont misunderstand. I’m not saying bash their work, or be mean about it.

Im NOT saying you should go online and trash the work, put it down or rant negatively.

That’s just WRONG and not particularly helpful . There is a place for gentle, constructive feedback. If what you say is not going to be constructive, then its best not to say anything at all.

Speak privately and make sure you have that level of relationship where they can accept and respect feedback from you, even the one that tells them they need to start from scratch.

For any creative person to grow, they need their friends/colleagues that are honest with them or they stagnate when they believe the hype.

Many of the directors who have phenomenal work, that transcends time, language and culture, all had people that were honest with them about their early work, and they were also honest with themselves.  Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck admitted that their very first directing efforts were so horrible, they they should never see the light of day. But that self knowledge enabled them to dig deep , work harder and reinvent , to become the directors they are today, and their body of work is the evidence.

Creatives also need to be careful whose validation, they rely on for feedback. Cos while you may have, the Cistine Chapel Painting as your benchmark, the person singing your praises, may be the kind that sees a Photoshop mash up poster and declares it a great work of art.

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