Another day, another rejection. This iteration from a film festival rejecting my feature film the black sea. So empty and meaningless on the one hand and so impossibly hard to take on the other. Backstory: I've been directing in earnest for about 5 years. Made several shorts and a feature and received exclusively rejection from festivals. This followed 7 years in Los Angeles during and after film school, peddling spec screenplays that never found takers so there is a history here, a pattern of NO. My natural internal response is to build a narrative made of equations, if this then thats, something to the order of my screenplay rejected = my screenplay sucks; my short film rejected = my short film must be terrible; my feature film rejected = my feature film was ill-advised and I should have hung it up years ago and now I'll just be left w/ the crushing financial debt of making the film as an endless reminder of my talentlessness. The longer I continue, the more calcified this narrative becomes, the more definitive, a self-serving poisonous loop reinforcing its own existence. The problem with these equations are the factors they omit - the particulars of the spec screenplay marketplace, the variables and machinery of film festivals, the artistic aim/intent of my projects fitting into some digestible, commercial construct - and the reduction of these complex omissions into a yes/no couplet that ties directly to my infantile need for approbation (which should not factor in to artmaking but which invariably is a drive for some, okay, for me.)

Let me re-iterate some basic points I've made before, primarily for my benefit:

1) I did not make 'the black sea' to find commercial success, I made it because I had to tell/expell the film. (note: I am not rejecting commercial success here b/c I'd love some)
2) Acceptance in a film festival is not the same as making a good film.
3) Rejection is a vital component of any artistic enterprise
4) Remember this lojong in perpetual, eternal white flashing loops:
Don't Expect Applause.
5) On to the next one.
6) when in doubt see 4 and 5
7) Film history is rife with films that were scorned/ignored at release but that time has been kind to. Is the value diminished? Better yet should the value be tethered to audience response/interaction at all?
8) the artist is fed her/his own equation across a lifetime, both in and out of artistic pursuit: hard work = reward. if this then that. if you pour yourself into your work, if you slave and scrimp and sacrifice and sweat then it will all be worth it. If you just write one more spec then that will be the one. If you make short films then that will lead to great things. If you just make a feature then you will be in a different place. If you work hard then it will pay off. I submit that this is still true (perhaps evidence of my mania) but the definition of 'pay off' has morphed and mutated over the years, into something like #9
9) the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the work is the reward is the reward is the reward is the work
10) Don't Expect Applause.


Chilly said...

Well here are props from Chilly, and apologies for not checking in more frequently. (I worked in that very theater in '87-'88 in regards to your RW DPS post... Location of my "I scared Bob Dylan" story to be told only in person on a night I'm drinking-) You did it! Your first feature, no? Maybe it doesn't count for as much, because you've completed plenty of projects, so maybe that buzz isn't there so much. But you still fucking did it! How many attempts never come through? On the other hand, you're a survivor, and you KNEW you'd do it - so mabe not the same buzz. I can only relate from writing rejections and the albatross of the novel I've never written. Anyway, you're entitled to your blues - and we know you ain't quittin'...

Brian Padian said...

thank you for the good words Chilly! Yes, I am trying to keep it all in perspective re first feature and re survivorship. I can't complain about anything. And deep down I know it. But there's that ego level. still working on it