In any creative enterprise the worst mantra you can repeat to yourself is “don’t fuck it up.” Those words are, of course, rooted in fear and a corresponding lack of confidence on the part of the artist. I know. In the late ’70s I tried to be a credible movie journalist while repeating these words over and over, fearful as I was of exposing myself as the marginally talented, somewhat under-educated guy I feared that I was deep down. Anxiety, insecurity and fear are jail cells. “Don’t fuck it up” did nothing but freeze my instincts and make me afraid of my own voice, and of what the world might think.
What are helpful words to go by when you’re creating? “Let’s see what happens if I fuck with this or fiddle with it in some fuck-all way” has always worked for me. Once you stop giving a shit, everything starts to flow. You can’t uncork artistic discovery if you’re too worried about disappointing your bosses or fans or whomever. If you overdo the fuck-all you can always formalize and clean it up, but you can never fix work that’s been created with a sword over your head.
From a 12.29 Reverse Shot piece by Eric Hynes: “This is the era of do-not-fuck-it-up. Ant-Man? It’s fine — at least Peyton Reed didn’t fuck it up. Batman v. Superman? Don’t fuck it up, Zack Snyder, like you did Watchmen. X-Men: Apocalypse? Let’s bring back Bryan Singer because he didn’t fuck up those first few X-Men movies. The first thing art director Nash Dunnigan told a fan-filled crowd at Museum of the Moving Image in advance of a screening of The Peanuts Movie? ‘Don’t worry, we didn’t screw it up.’
“Not fucking it up was assignment number one for the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, the first without creator George Lucas as director, writer, or showrunner. Director J.J. Abrams was obliged not to fuck up Disney’s $4 billion investment in the property; he was obliged not to fuck it up for the legions of Star Wars aficionados and everyday nostalgists; and he was obliged not to fuck it up for Hollywood in general, which has staked its solvency on blockbusters like Star Wars ever since Star Wars itself debuted in 1977.
“Well, he didn’t fuck it up. The reviews have been strong, the fans seem generally happy, and the ship has sailed past $1 billion in worldwide box office receipts at the time of this writing.”