NO18 Jun 2009
Well, for their own reasons, the Galway Film Fleadh will not be screening A Place in my Heart this year, which is a pity. I have had two short films premiere at the Fleadh and it's always a good day out. Especially in the old days of the Claddagh Palace and the "tent." Happy memories!
What is interesting though, is how we filmmakers rarely seem to publicly mention the "no's." Film, by it's very nature, is collaborative. As a result, we need to gain the collaboration of people such as writers, directors, actors, crew, producers and so on. Not to mention financiers, funding bodies and of course, the final audience. At every stage in the process, we are more likely to come across the word "no" than "yes." But if you read the press briefings for films from 5 minute shorts through to three hour period dramas, 'no' doesn't come into it. You could easily assume they wrote the script, called up their first choice of cast and crew, money fell from the money tree and they made Greatness. Oh but if it were so...
Writers carry around with them a large folder of "in development" scripts which are beaten and worn by the number of rejections they receive. Actors must queue for audition after audition only to hear "not today, sorry..." What of producers? Surely they must be immune from rejection? Not so. Every producer has a project he or she has been trying to get off the ground for some number of years. Sometimes they do actually get the film made, and it goes on to win awards, and as they smile and thank The Academy, I wonder do they mutter under their breath to the myriad of studios and distributors who rejected their opus?
I guess all of us want to portray an image of success. An image which says, "I've always been offered any job for which I was interviewed." Or perhaps; "I have never been turned down, when asking someone on a date." The truth is, that film is no different from life and we take the knocks day in and day out.
In the case of Claddagh Films, we have had two short film scripts rejected by three different funding agencies, the fleadh doesn't want to premiere A Place in my Heart, and as it happens, the Cannes Film Festival didn't offer me accreditation as an industry professional.
Hurts, doesn't it?
Then again, I've had two films play at the fleadh, at the Leeds International Film Festival, at Foyle, and in a cinema in the UK. Completing a film is a big achievement in the first place, even though it does seem like everyone and her sister are making films nowadays. I've also been lucky enough to work with some really talented actors and crew, and we've had fun. Of course, I've also had to tell a lot of actors that they're not right for the part, and try to explain that this isn't because they're not good enough, but because they're, well... Not right for it.
I suppose the danger of all this fake euphoria, this funny notion that rejection doesn't exist in the film industry, is that people every day sit in front of a computer and type FADE IN, while dreaming of Klieg lights and an LA premiere. I won't mention the odds - they're depressing. Young girls and boys dream of the acting spotlight, but ask any working actor and they'll tell a different story. A story removed from limo's and red carpets. For every working actor, there are probably a hundred or so who haven't worked in quite a while. Ouch!
Writers? Don't get me started. We directors aren't immune either. Film schools churn out fresh batches of filmmakers every year. Most will find a new career in an office, somewhere. From time to time, a co-worker will ask "what is it like to make a film?" but won't want to hear the true answer. Some will find jobs in facilities houses, and precious few will make a living from film or television directing.
ET was reputedly rejected by twenty studios and distribution companies before it found a home at Universal Studios. Sex, Lies and Videotape almost didn't make the official selection at Sundance - imagine how different things would be without that particular landmark event! Rejection happens every day. Several thousand times a day.
OK, that's all just downright depressing.
The secret is, we dust ourselves off, put it behind us, and get on with it. We take the 19th rejection letter, fold it nicely, stick it in the bin, and submit to the 20th studio. We have to. We have no choice. We move on. We get over it and we keep struggling. An actor can't appear at an audition, depressed because they didn't get the previous job. They have to brign life and energy to a role, and it's hard to do that unless you have the energy.
Doomed writers produce a solitary script and hawk it until the pages turn brown and faded. Successful writers have a drawer full of projects and scripts, as well as a stunning collection of rejection letters. It goes on and on.
What's amazing is that few people talk about it. We have to wait for the Oscars, and that rueful smile as the winners take their trophies and remember the rejection letters.