The Insecurity of the Artist

I’m not sure how many artist’s out there have hit a moment of insecurity or fear while working on a project? Years ago while prepping for a very big movie I had one of ’THOSE’ nightmares. The kind where you’re supposed to go out on stage and say something except when you get out there you don’t know what the play or speech is… 

… you cannot find the script you were supposed to memorize and while you stare at the audience… 

… staring back at you… 

… you realize…

YOU’RE NAKED! 

My nightmare wasn’t quite like this but similar in theme. In my dream, I was the Director of Photography on some huge project and I arrived on set early as the crew were just getting there. But things were strange. The landscape was odd. It was dark and foreboding AND on the horizon, there were TWO SUNS in the sky. I had no idea if they were rising or setting and when I took out my trusty light-meter to try and take a reading, I realized it was notated in some alien symbolic language... not of this earth. I panicked!

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And then woke up in a cold sweat.

Insecurity has been a part of my creative life for many years. The fear of not coming up with good ideas, not being able to solve a problem on set, running out of creative juice, coming up with a boring idea…. Always some fear of failure. 

In my twenties, I hid it under a shield of arrogance and hubris. It seemed to work, for the most part. Or so I thought... underneath I was often silently panicking. I think other perceptive people may have noticed it. 

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On the film Sarafina (which I was the Director of Photography for) Whoopi Goldberg eased me wisely into my first day of shooting. I was extremely young for my position (26) and while I held the light meter up to Whoopi’s face she said quietly: “ I’m so nervous”. 

I was shocked. “You are?” I said. 

“Of course” she replied “I’m always nervous the first day of a shoot.” 

In retrospect I think she may have said it for my benefit. Maybe she noticed my hands shaking? Maybe she WAS really nervous. I’ll never know. But I’m very grateful. I realized that even the most experienced and seasoned artist’s can have the jitters.

Years later, that point was driven home even more clearly when I watched an interview with Hans Zimmer, who I consider one of the greatest film composers in the world! This man has created the most beautiful music, it’s like he has the magic touch. And then I saw this interview by Kjersti Flaain in which he confessed his torturous insecurity on every single film he does.

I was amazed! He’s just like me! :-)

I’m terrified before EVERY project. Wondering if I’ll have what it takes!

The years have gone by and I’m much more conformable with that fear and that insecurity. It keeps me on my toes. I never sit back and feel overconfident. I always feel like I can do better. Just like Hans Zimmer, I still feel like a bit of a fraud as I start a project, BUT then the creative muscles kick in. And after all, I love what I do and wouldn’t give it up for the world. 

I salute the artist's out there! Make friends with the insecurity! It’s all part of the process! :-)