Perfection Versus Shipping

Hey, there!

My fellow VO artist Gary Terzza has posted an awesome article on his blog about something I see as a crisis in our business.

And it’s one that can be addressed, but it’s going to take some personal energy.

But if you suffer from it (and you probably do), you can fix it.

Here’s how.

His article is called Perfection Is Killing Your Voice Over Work.

This is one of the biggest challenges artists face – I see it all the time, and try to help them fight it at every turn.

Somebody very smart once said “Don’t let perfection get in the way of shipping the product.”

And all our lives, artists are told how special they are – and to help perpetuate this myth, they feel the need to execute again and again, making things “different” and “better.”

Hopefully, we’ll all learn to get over ourselves and simply tell our stories.

Take a cue from Clint Eastwood, who rarely films the scenes he directs more than once or twice (industry average: 4-7). He works with pros (like you) and expects you to get it “right enough” the first time, and only use any successive takes for technical quality.

There’s a famous interaction that Matt Damon shared with David Letterman about his first scene in the film Invicta – where director Eastwood rolled, was happy with the first take, and said, “Let’s move on.” Damon was like, “Wait, wait…I want to do this again – I want to get it right for you, and I’ve got a bunch of options,” and Eastwood said “Why? So you can make us all wait? Moving on.” Eastwood had gotten what he wanted, but it shows even Matt Damon can doubt the excellence he delivers.

I want you to consider the fact that you’re a working pro, far ahead of students, newbies, amateurs and others who every well might need several takes, just to find the ballpark, let alone hit it out. You’ve moved to a different place. Try not to fall prey to the temptation to do a bunch of takes and then frankenstein together a finished audition from all that.

Give yourself the permission to occupy that status. Enjoy your skill. Remember that you are working toward having so busy and profitable a schedule that you NEED to be efficient. And trust your instincts when you’re performing.

Do you find yourself doubting your first takes? Do find it difficult to imagine that you just might have the talent to do it well right off the bat? Let me know in the comments below.

Hope this helps.


13 Responses to Perfection Versus Shipping

  1. Memo Sauceda May 13, 2014 at 5:53 am #

    I saw that interview! And the way I remember it is Clint saying:
    “Why? So you can waste everybody’s time?”

  2. Dave Airozo May 13, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    So true, the harder I try even after a couple of takes, the further I get away from what was a good take. Didn’t like this or I didn’t like that, before you know it I’ve picked that take to death. Stop, go back to that first take and what do you know, it’s a miracle.

  3. Dan McGowan May 13, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    Fantastic thoughts here. Thanks!

  4. Stu Norfleet May 13, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    WOW! The ATTEMPT at perfection is such a double edged sword, and it makes me bleed constantly. You are so correct…it really becomes a burden after a while and truly slows me down more than I want to admit. Where is the “line?”

    • David H. Lawrence XVII May 13, 2014 at 7:17 am #

      It varies, but it begins by getting out of your own way, and being happy with an audition that is “good enough.” “Good enough” is usually amazing when your level of expertise is high – and most readers here are either there or on their way. It can be hard to transition into being completely confident in your ability to make strong, interesting, brand-specific and story-serving choices. This is all giving me an idea for a new class. :-)

  5. Rhavin McSweaney May 13, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    This was very helpful. Thanks David!

  6. Todd Cattell May 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Absolutely David. As a wise artist once said, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

  7. Lawrence Wallison May 13, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    During a commercial class at Megan Foley Casting some years back, instructor Chuck Mara sensed I was agonizing trying to get a take done perfectly.

    Chuck’s direction: “The client doesn’t want it perfect. They want it human.”

  8. John Kissinger February 12, 2017 at 5:51 am #

    Brilliant reminder, David! One that bears repeating endlessly.

    At my “other job” (the one that still pays the bills), I’ve had two very different leaders, both highly respected in their fields, remind me of this lesson in their own inimitable ways over the years.

    The first used to say, “Don’t miss great while you’re chasing perfect.”

    The second said, “Done beats good, every time.”

    The second one is perhaps the most provocative and the bitterest pill to swallow, but perhaps the most important one to remember where our busy, stressed-out, time-pressed clients are concerned.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Elena Smith February 12, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    Thank you for your help and understanding David. This will help me in the future.

  10. Maureen Carlstrom February 12, 2017 at 8:10 am #

    After 24 audiobooks, I’m STILL doing this. Albeit not as much, but still way more than I want to. One of the hardest habits to break. Thank you for this pep talk, David. As always, you’re amazing :)

  11. Linda LongCrane February 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    That was a terrific reminder!! Thanks for posting it, David!!

  12. Brad C. Wilcox February 13, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    Love this. Thanks, David!

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