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Sunday, March 10, 2013

••◊ Rejection.

I thought I would take a break from the normal gear and adventure centric posts to talk about something I've been thinking about a lot this week.  Rejection.

This week I received my third rejection letter from a film festival after submitting the documentary "Stronger + One Last Rep."  As artists and film makers we tend to think of our projects as special because obviously they are to us.  Why else would we spend hour after hour producing, editing, and taking that last stray frame out of our films?  The trick, for me at least, now days seems be creating films that others find special too.  I guess there's a reason Hollywood films are so formulaic.  It's not just lack of creativity - Well...sometimes it can be that as well.

Getting into movie making is tough.  I see countless people show up at the San Diego Filmmakers meetings with their enthusiastic approach toward an idea they believe will be special and sets them apart from everyone else on the planet.  How many of those people actually make a film?  Very few.  At least by my count.  Once you get over the financial and organizational obstacles, there's the art and the business of actually delivering a real live project out into the wild, ready for the world to judge.  That first part knocks off 90% of people.  The second part knocks off an additional 5% or so.  Everyone has a "great idea" for a film.  When I tell them OK, you plan and finance it, the great idea most often becomes a burden rather than a great idea.  That magical idea they walked in with somehow isn't so special anymore.

So that leaves 5% of film making inclined people that have the brass tacks to actually follow through.  Somehow that translates to many, many thousands of uploads to Vimeo a day (I discount YouTube because of all the cat/webcam videos).  Of those, maybe 1% represent film festival shorts and even features.  Still, that's a lot of material that becomes competition for film festival submission.

So we filmmakers upload to withoutabox.com and submit our films to film festivals we admire or just want the prestige of being associated with.  My goal with submitting "Stronger + One Last Rep" is two-fold.  First, to share the story with as many people as possible.  Second, to travel to places I want to travel to while following the film (primary goal being the Seattle International Film Festival).  Obviously I'll get more eyeballs viewing the film on Vimeo than at any shorts program, but that doesn't satisfy my second goal.  Rejection is so frustrating because it doesn't allow me to fulfill my goals and I don't have any control over it.  Feedback from film festivals is always generic.  They never say, "the color grading looked like an acid trip and the scene in the kitchen was reminiscent of Ishtar," which is what I want them to say.  That would help me reach my goals.  Yes, I accept that it's logistically improbable given the number of submissions and too much of a burden for a volunteer reviewer.  Still, you wish you would hear something beyond "thank you for your submission."

Sometimes it doesn't even come down the art or technical aspects of your film.  The reviewer may just want to keep all the submissions under 10 minutes each so they can fit as many as possible into the 1.5 hour program on the schedule.  Maybe they decided that each short has to have something to do with world hunger.  You'll never know.  Maybe my film just sucked in comparison.

One thing I heard recently is that highly successful people have a trait that allows them to brush off failure, learn from it, and keep going.  That's what I'm determining needs to be my trait if I intend to stick with film making.  Rejection from a film festival isn't the end of the world, but it's not where I want to be.

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