Monday, January 23, 2006

How do you respond to rejection?

I'm still figuring out how I respond, but I've noticed a trend, at least with regard to the film. Whenever I get rejected from a fest (or when I suspect I have been rejected, but I haven't yet gotten an official notice -- i.e., when people on the Withoutabox Message Boards are posting that they heard from XYZ Film Festival, and I haven't heard anything), after I've dealt with my sad feeilings over not getting in, I find myself searching the festival listings for other fests to enter.

Last night, I identified about 5 or 10 new fests to enter. I sent off three more entries this morning (the three with the closest deadlines).

Come to think of it, I am pretty sure I do this with scripts, too. It's on a smaller scale there, but when I get rejected by a production company or agent, I usually start searching out other places to submit.

It turns out rejection is a pretty big motivator for me.

Of course, I should probably be spending more time looking at why something is being rejected. But when I do that, I end up questioning everything.

There is a fine line between "believing in your work" and "unwarranted arrogance." There is also a fine line between "editing your work in response to criticism" and "insanity" (i.e., changing stuff in response to every critical remark.

I don't walk those particular lines very well. I veer wildly from one to another, careening like a drunk driver. I go from anger ("how can they not like this? those idiots!") to depression ("i suck -- i am mediocre at best") in the span of minutes.

It's weird to be me. I haven't yet figured out how I can be so sure of myself and so unsure of myself at the same time... how I can hear a compliment and pick out (and obsess about) the one minor criticism within the compliment.

At the heart of it all, I suspect, is an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, a belief that I have nothing worth saying and no skill in saying it.


At 5:38 PM, Anonymous Sujewa said...

I think about rejection, or the role rejection plays, in other areas in life - specially romantic - when I have to deal w/ rejection in the filmmaking arena.
In love/sex/romance dudes get rejected - and ladies too - all the time - for good & bad reasons.
But most people end up ultimately finding partners - as long as they persist. So, rejection, for me, is no big thing. As a filmmaker the key, I think, is to have a pretty solid idea about what you are trying to accomplish w/ a film.
And then when the film is done you should be able to tell whether you accomplished it or not. And then screening the film to an audience - of relative strangers if possible - and talking w/ them about what worked or did not work could verify for yourself your take on your film. And thinking about the career of Jim Jarmusch helps too. Jarmusch made a movie that a lot of people did not like too much - Permanent Vacation - and then he kept going - made Stranger Than Paradise - a lot of people liked that one, a lot didn't. But it looks like he himslef liked what he accomplished in Stranger & then he continued in that style for several more movies - pretty much for the rest of his career so far (except for Dead Man & maybe a couple of other projects). So it's totally possible to have your work not liked by many and liked by some at the same time, and for the work to be excellent. It all depends on your taste - since film is art/entertainment. Anyway, re: rejection - no big deal, move forward towards your goal.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

you are so right, sujewa, and of course i aspire to have that attitude about rejection. and of course i fail miserably much of the time, because i question myself and feel less-than-confident about my abilities...

speaking of rejection, another one today (this was a screenwriting competition, not a film, but rejection is rejection).

i'm not worried about that one. the same script has done well with a variety of people and competitions, and that was BEFORE i did a serious rewrite on it...

not that i didn't briefly question whether it now sucked (but i got over that pretty fast).

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Sujewa said...

Check out the self-help for artists book The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. She herself is a film director (and I think she's got something to do w/ Scorcese). Anyway, she has some good tips on recovering yourself from rejecttion. That book has been very useful to me. In fact I think I need to go read a little bit of it now since I am slacking by blogging, where as I should be editing right now :) Good luck.


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