Less than a month ago we won Best Feature in the D.C. Independent Film Festival.
Three weeks later and I’m engaged in a bitter email feud with the head of a mediocre script competition about being unfairly judged in a contest where my EXCELLENT script didn’t crack the top 100.
Oh, and this competition ended LAST YEAR. I was notified of my rejection five months ago.
So… how does this fall from grace happen so quickly?
A show business life exists on a rollercoaster. The highs are awesome and the views are amazing (Look, I can see J. Law’s ankle tattoo from here!) but in an instant it all drops out from under you. Then you are in a dark tunnel, can’t even see your own shadow, and the heights are a distant memory.
YES the movie life can be glamorous, especially our time at the festival, but I share the following with you because it is hard. And there is often rejection. Relentless rejection.
The downward spiraling began at the fest, actually. Before leaving D.C. we found out about two other film festival rejections. Not a big deal.
Upon landing in Los Angeles we returned to normalcy. There is still a lot of administrative work to do on the movie. So we kept at it. We didn’t have any pending festivals in March, but there were five in April so it would be great to get things in order before then. But the downward slide continued…
- I received a rejection from a prestigious writers conference for one of my plays. No shocker, but still disappointing. Even more disappointing: within an hour two writer friends were celebrating their acceptance to the same festival on Facebook.
- Another film festival rejection: guess we aren’t going to TriBeCa.
- Was notified that my ranking on a technical writing website (the bulk of my income for the past few years) has dropped from 4 stars to 3 stars. This will make a big difference in my income. I appealed the demotion. My request was denied.
- Another film festival rejection: guess we aren’t going to San Francisco.
“Now wait a second,” I hear you say. “You’ve been in this business for a while. You know all about rejection. Stop yer bitchin’.”
Valid point, imaginary you. I signed up for this. And should be prepared. In fact, we’ve been doing some lobbying on our behalf. Yes, you could submit your film to a festival, do nothing, and wait until you get the response in your inbox. Or you can lobby. We still have nearly a dozen festivals pending and there are multiple festivals where we have networked heavily, utilizing personal contacts from investors, artists in our movie, and other supporters. One of our investors premiered her recent film at a certain Midwestern film festival where we applied. She set me up with the head of the festival and we have been corresponding. Our prospects look good. Great, even.
But as we wait for the official decision the slide continues…
- I attended an acting class with the Antaeus Theatre Company where the students did scenes from one of my plays. For this I was paid a stipend. It was a great experience. So why is this part of my downward spiral? Because I realized that when my check for the stipend arrives it will be THE FIRST MONEY I HAVE MADE IN 2018. Which is because-
- -I am unemployed. Other than my technical job listed before, which has been dry so far this year. My wife, forever a freelance actor, is unemployed until the next job comes in. But she hasn’t had a single audition in two months, right about the same time she told her agents she was pregnant. So if you are keeping score that’s two unemployed artists, and a mortgage, and a three-year-old in preschool, and another kid on the way.
- Tax time. Pulling receipts together to meet with our tax preparer. Looking at all the submissions for competitions and festivals from 2017. While some are still pending, most were rejections.
And that’s when I noticed for one submission I did not receive the feedback I paid extra to receive. And that was the last straw. I hastily wrote the competition, waited a day, and angrily wrote again. The head of the competition cheerfully wrote me back and sent my coverage, which he claimed was sent two months ago. I didn’t receive it.
I read the coverage and it was glowing. The reader loved it. Gave only one slight note. I quickly wrote back, (almost) calmly explaining that this barely constitutes as feedback and since it was so glowing, how did it not make the top 100? His answer was less than convincing. Clearly, this competition was not worth my time or money.
But rather engage in a back and forth, I took a step back and realized that it IS a roller coaster. And I’m at the bottom. And things will turn up.
Then we got the email from that midwestern festival we were eagerly anticipating:
I guess this coaster still has some downhill before we climb up again. Out of five potential festivals we could attend in April, only one is still pending.
Keep pushing. Keep climbing. We won Best Feature at our first festival. We’ll get into another.