By Daisy Bard
Living the Whip Life
Marc Lewis (Dean of SCA) said he modelled himself on JK Simmonds’ character in Whiplash. I subsequently watched Whiplash, and here are my takeaways.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS FOR WHIPLASH
Having seen the film, I think (hope) Marc was exaggerating. The teacher in Whiplash pushes so hard that one former pupil kills himself and a current one gets into a car crash while rushing to a performance, paranoid that he will be replaced by another drummer. The competitive atmosphere fostered between contemporaries is one that we are assured will weed out the unambitious and produce one of ‘the greats’. Of course, the teacher later admits that he ‘never had a Charlie Parker’ but refuses to apologise for pushing people beyond their limits. At the end of the film, we wonder if our single-minded protagonist will become the greatest jazz drummer of his generation, or if he’ll burn out at 30. Or both.
After reflecting, I don’t think it’s right to force competition, but rather ambitiousness. Since arriving at SCA in September, I’ve felt the competitive atmosphere brewing and bulging, a subtle base note beneath the genuine camaraderie that keeps us going. There have been people losing it at potential partners, voting for their own projects on our shared feedback forms, being territorial with their ideas… and I don’t blame them. I’m sure I’m guilty of it too. We’ve been told to scrape our way to number one and ‘scare’ the rest of the class with how good we are.
But here’s the thing. Some types of competition aren’t healthy. I’ve realised it’s not right for me to compare myself to someone with three or four years’ worth of graphic design experience, or someone who’s been working in an agency for years before coming to SCA. We don’t all start on the same footing in terms of our skills, and that’s why it’s better to accept that you can accelerate and learn quickly, and focus on your own development, but not to freak out when your video isn’t as perfectly finished as someone else’s who’s been making them for years. Focus on the joy in what you’re doing, otherwise what’s the point? As the brilliant creative Nathalie Gordon rightly puts it on her Twitter profile: ‘too busy watering my own grass to notice if yours is greener.’
So challenge the competition. Worry about yourself but don’t be selfish.
Or do. I’m not here to tell you what to do – this is just my decision.