Saturday, July 29, 2006

Coming Soon: the fall semester

The academic fall semester is almost upon me, and I still have plenty of work to do to get my classes ready. I had a faculty development summer program all through June, and then I took a much-needed extended family vacation, so now that I'm back, I really need to get to work.

This fall, I'm teaching Postproduction, Screenwriting, and Directing. I love teaching these courses. These are three things I love to do AND to talk about (not that teaching is just "talking about" something -- far from it. In fact, designing a course so that students actually get an active learning experience is a unique and complex task.)

So, I have three weeks to get all that ready. That seems like enough time, as I've taught all these courses before. Even with my planned changes and updates, it's just a matter of buckling down and getting some uninterrupted time in the office.

As far as film stuff, my July travels started out with me anticipating answers from three different fests. Within a week and a half (and nearly obsessive email checking by yours truly), I was rejected by all three (interesting, to me anyway, that I said that "I" was rejected, when it was my film that was rejected -- what does that say about my approach to these things?)

So I was down, and I was a little whiny about it (according to my wife). I was trying to let it go, and I finally did, in fact, let it go, thanks to a lot of prayer and a realization of how futile it is to worry about it. I mean, the film is the film. I like it. If people don't, there's not a whole lot I can do about it (and contrary to my normal practice, worrying and whining are not "doing something about it").

Well, shortly after I "let it go," I heard from the Virginia Film Festival. Getting to screen at a festival with such a strong reputation created an amazing sense of confidence. Then, a day later, the film gets invited to screen at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival -- a smaller fest, of course, but in my hometown. And I was pleased by both of these acceptances.

And then, I also got invited to screen it in Hollywood (see my previous post about FAIF Int'l Film Festival).

Three fests in a little over a week. Those three invitations have filled me with a lot of confidence. Where previously I was thinking I'd self-distribute just to make some money back, suddenly my perspective has changed. People like the film. Why shouldn't it get distributed?

Now, the truth is that these three invitations do not, in themselves, mean anything. Three people (or three groups of people) liked the film. When it was rejected, three people (or groups of people) didn't like the film (or didn't like it enough). That's all it means.

But it's amazing how much those people (or groups of people) can affect my confidence. Right now, I feel like the master of my domain (and not, you know, in the Seinfeld sense). But I could get a rejection from a smaller fest right now, and it would totally bum me out.

Then again, maybe not.

But I do tend to focus more on the rejections and on the people who don't like the film. There was an episode of Frasier where Frasier had to submit his show to focus group testing. He worried about it and decried the awful process -- and then everyone loved his show.

Well, not everyone. One guy, a newsstand owner played by Tony Shalhoub, hated it. Frasier obsessed over this guy, eventually trying to talk to him to determine why he didn't like the show. He couldn't be satisfied with 11 out of 12 people loving the show. He needed all 12 to embrace him.

I feel like Frasier sometimes. Not that 11 out of 12 fests have loved my film. But the film has now been selected for 8 festivals (9, if you count the one that selected us and then had to cancel the event for lack of funding), and several of the fests that rejected it contacted me to tell me how great the film was but that it didn't fit with their programming needs for various reasons.

So I may not have 11 of 12 loving it. But I have a good number of people really liking my work. I'm trying to learn to enjoy that.

And I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to make it to all these fall fests. In October, I'm already going to be traveling at least 3 out of 4 weekends, plus there are several fests in September that I'm waiting to hear from...

Nice to have an abundance of opportunities rather than a dearth. But I can always find something about which to complain ;-)

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