Recently, I reached out to a more experienced filmmaker for help refining my upcoming documentary Sakura & Pearls: Healing from World War II. I had met him in person and he had even liked my trailer for the movie already, so I felt acquainted enough to ask for help. While talking on the phone about potentially hiring him, he brought up that I had misused a technical term in an email. I clarified what I had actually meant in the email, then I moved on to talking about how to enhance the project for film festival screenings. But he circled back, repeating his criticism over the use of the wrong technical term. I admitted to him that I wasn’t an expert in this part of filmmaking, which is why I was reaching out for help in the first place. Then I went back to talking about the other specs of the project.
Unsatisfied, he circled back once again. His harking on this one detail showed me that he wanted something from me, but his intentions weren’t clear. I finally said, “I see. You want to school me. Ok. Let it out.” He chuckled, saying “No, no. I’m not trying to school you.” Then he went on to school me about the same topic and made a series of comments that were way off base. His condescending judgments needled into my stomach. I quickly realized that a surprise, emotional attack had begun and I quickly pulled back in a protective reflex. He didn’t actually want to talk about the various aspects of the project to see if he could work on it. He wanted to hammer his point home again until I finally let his sharp opinion pierce my confidence. But I didn’t participate in his power play. I intervened, saying, “It looks like we’re not compatible for this project, but thank you for your time.” Then I heard the toilet flush in the background, as it turned out he took this business call while in a public restroom. I took that as a sign from the Universe that I was right to end the conversation and that it was a good idea to flush his crap down the toilet. #StayClassy
This exchange was a potent reminder to me about we all have the responsibility to protect ourselves and to believe in what we create. My motivation for making documentaries is about preserving important messages for the future generations, because I believe we must take a multimedia approach to do so. Books aren’t enough to reach the younger generations anymore. We need more. For me, creating documentaries is not about being the best filmmaker ever, nor do I have a desire to be a know-it-all, because being condescending can hinder the vulnerability that is necessary to forge meaningful connections. Rather, I strive to be a competent filmmaker who captures important ideas and moments of truth. This phone meeting reminded me of my responsibility to recognize un-constructive attacks on my work.
As I reflect on the interactions that I’ve had around making my documentary and through my experience of publishing my guidebook, Healing Our Bloodlines, I’ve broken down the “haters” into 3 different types. Let me tell you about the Sniper, the Hope Slayer, and the Worrier.
The core emotions behind each type of “hater”
Sniper – Envy
Hope Slayer – Shame & Grief
Worrier – Fear
The person I shared about earlier was a Sniper. His intentions were veiled. He made everything seem like it was safe. Then out of nowhere, he launched a critical attack. When his first shot didn’t land, he changed position slightly and aimed at the spot of the initial attack and fired again. His feedback wasn’t delivered in a constructive way and it was repetitive, even after mistakes and misunderstanding were clearly acknowledged. After debriefing the experience with a colleague who knew him, it became clear that there was some degree of envy that this Sniper had about my documentary. Snipers never reveal their true motives, nor are they vulnerable with their feelings which can be essential to forming a meaningful bond on a project. Snipers launch judgments because if they weaken your enthusiasm or motivation, then they can hinder your project’s success. Internalized judgments make you hesitate, slowing down or discouraging your motivation to complete a project, which makes sure that the Sniper doesn’t have to feel jealousy about your project again, because they have shaken your confidence enough to ensure that you doubt yourself. This hinders your success.
The Hope Slayer is a person who discourages or shames bold efforts. “You’ll never get anybody to interview about that.” “I don’t think anyone will read your book or watch your movie.” These are the people who have lost hope in their own lives and have found a comfortable hole to brace themselves for future disappointments. Rather than pulling themselves out of their hole, they try to pull other people in it with them. These pessimists often convince themselves that they are “realists”, yet they rarely make significant changes in their lives. Life requires us to change and grow. Even the seasons change. Staying hulled up in a hole hinders change from happening and is thus an artificial way to live. Hope is that energy that opens up new possibilities and it’s the energy that Hope Slayers avoid. If they see it in someone else who is making a bold statement in their lives, Hope Slayers are the ones who hurl their shame and disappointments at your new plans and artistic creations. Don’t let them leave their muddy fingerprints on your dreams.
Finally, we have the Worriers. Often, these people mean well, but because their mind is constantly future tripping about all the things that could wrong, they pollute the air around them with a cloud of anxiety. A certain amount of fear can be helpful, because it reminds you to double check everything on the checklist and it can remind us to troubleshoot potential problems. But to be submerged in your fears so entirely that you are afraid of making mistakes will stagnate any life change. Worriers are absent of faith. They don’t trust life and other people, and many times they doubt their own abilities to get things done. It’s best to screen out the excessive worries of an alarmist and try to give your attention to the problems that actually need to be solved.
Take a moment to reflect on your life and ask yourself, “Do I have any of these types of ‘haters’ in my life?” If so, you are not obliged to participate in their power plays. You don’t have to join them in their heavy emotions. It’s healthy to remove yourself from these toxic situations, even if you have to push back and tell the ‘hater’ to own their crap!