Friday, July 23, 2010

Talent vs. Effort

What makes someone good at their job?

In some businesses, it's mostly about talent- musicians (not pop stars, real musicians), dancers, fine artists, and the like. In other businesses, it's about the time and money invested into training and education- doctors, programmers, mechanics, lawyers, and so on.

There is always that gray area, though. Some programmers are revered because they have "the gift." Some dancers are known as great technicians, technique being something that can be taught. Some artists are more talented, while others have a better grasp of the concepts, like composition and colors.

I can't think of any single occupation that is entirely right-brained or entirely left-brained. There is an artistry in numbers and a science to art, in my opinion.

All these thoughts occurred to me rather randomly today, while at work, because of a co-worker of mine. Not necessarily bad at the job (we do the same job), but ... somehow ... not great. What makes a coordinator a good coordinator? What makes anyone in production good at their job?

My keys to being in production:

Be aware. 
I am an information junkie. I receive tons of e-mails, IM's, RSS feeds, texts, and phone calls because I am very insistent on staying in the loop. If I know everything, then there's one more person aware of what's going on, and small pieces are less likely to fall through the cracks- or so I think, anyway.

This is a big one. I am generally having several IM conversations while checking e-mails, taking notes, and making sure everything is up-to-date. I juggle because it's literally the only way that I will get everything on my plate done, or at least done to a point that I can tolerate. Some people are not good at multi-tasking at all. They lose track of things, they forget things- I believe multi-tasking can be learned through sheer will, which is how I figured it out.

If I didn't know shortcuts, my long work days would become even longer. Every second counts when there are four thousand and twenty-two things to do, so I take advantage of everything. Ctrl + c to copy, Ctrl + v to paste. Alt + Tab to switch between applications, Ctrl + Tab to switch between tabs, Ctrl + Shift + Tab to switch between tabs backwards. Ctrl + W to close tabs, Windows + D to minimize all applications ... the list goes on and on. These little tiny seconds add up, really!

I have around 30 people that I interact with daily, with probably another 40 that I occasionally interact with. This is actually not that many people. For most of the people that I speak to upwards of ten times a day, I can anticipate what they want. I know how they like their reports formatted. I know what kinds of information they need. I know what files they're going to ask about. All I have to do is a little preventative research to keep myself from scrambling at the last minute.

"The quicker the better" applies to a lot of things in the making of a film. The faster you find answers, lost files, solutions to problems, the better. This is part of the reason that I have a completely Pavlovian reaction to my phone, because those e-mails that are streaming in? I better answer those quickly! Money is everything, and waiting around for some information leads to wasting money.

I think that's pretty much it. I don't know what makes some people "better" at their jobs than others. I think part of it is perception, and part of it is how well one works with co-workers. I don't like being surrounded by a ton of people, because I feel the pressure to ... I don't know ... be nice? Get along with everyone? Have everyone like me? I don't know. Anyways. When I am surrounded by people, I notice that I tend to talk faster, move faster, and have less patience. I'm not super friendly at work. I'm just ... doing my job.

What I perceive to be someone "bad" at their job is a person that yaks a lot, socializes, doesn't do their work in a timely (or complete) manner, and generally just annoys me by making me wait for them to do what they need to do so that I can do what I need to do.

I'm sure this is not just true of the VFX or film industries- this has to be a universal thing. I would think. But what do I know, I've only ever worked in this one business!


william July 23, 2010 at 5:10 PM  

i read this quote off of a random stranger's facebook profile, of all places, and it's now embedded into my brain: hard work trumps talent every time. i think that's especially true when it comes to the arts. if you're talented, but you're not willing to work, then it's just talent gone to waste.

anyway...i hear you about working with incompetent people (you did say that, right?). it drives me nuts. i also hate people who are lazy. i understand that this is a trait that people are born with...but i don't care. lazy people should be hobbled.

jeanny July 28, 2010 at 2:14 PM  

I did indeed say that I work with incompetent people. I hold people to a high standard, which I think is good, but not everyone agrees with me.

Lazy people are too lazy to do anything about it, so I work to my standards and let them fall where they may. It's frustrating, and getting worse as production progresses, but everything always gets ironed out eventually. Movie's gotta get done, after all!