There are many ways to self-sabotage your creative work, but perhaps the most effective method is to overanalyze and think like a critic.
And I say this as someone who thoroughly enjoys the art of film critique. I love reading reviews (generally after I have watched a movie), and seeing all the different ways a film could be interpreted.
A great review or essay can open up new meaning in work you already loved, or bring a new perspective to something you didn’t initially connect with.
The critic: “The final shot of the movie was framed in a slight dutch tilt to underscore the central theme and re-inforce the protagonist’s detachment from reality.”
The filmmaker: “We forgot the tripod that day.”
My point was not that the critic is wrong and the filmmaker is right – Once the art exists, it’s up to the viewer to decide what it means to them.
Show 100 people your movie and there are now 100 different versions of your movie. The audience is a key participant in the work.
But as most working filmmakers know, the critical interpretation of your work is often nowhere near the original intention.
This is why I often advise that filmmakers avoid reading reviews of any kind when writing or directing a film of their own.
The headspace you need to be in to dissect work is the very opposite headspace you need to be in to create it. Getting lost in good (or bad) reviews of other films is one of the fastest paths to a creative block.
We should always strive to make the most meaningful art that we can. And of course we want everything to be purposeful and thorough.
But a massive part of the creative process is letting go, and not over-analyzing everything to death.
It’s about being open minded to any idea, and understanding that great themes, motifs and messages come out of the work organically. They aren’t meant to be shoehorned in an attempt to be more cerebral and score better reviews down the road.
So by all means, read reviews. Watch video essays. Study film analysis. I certainly do.
But when it comes time to actually make something, try to shut down all of these inputs that may hurt and confuse your process.
Instead, create space for your natural creativity to flourish, and let everyone else decide what it means at the premiere.