How To Avoid A Stressful Thanksgiving Weekend
I realize that it's too late now, but for future reference, I have a hearty piece of advice for all of you filmmakers out there who spent this past weekend biting your fingernails and not sleeping or sleeping but having crazy nightmares and worrying-worrying-worrying while praying-praying-praying for the telephone to ring. My advice to you is this:
NEXT YEAR, DON'T MAKE A FILM.
It's really that simple. Just don't do it. That way you won't have anything to submit to festivals--big or small--next year. This conscious lack of effort, this proactive unproductivity, will automatically remove the stress of having to wait around for those excruciating calls/emails/letters from dazed and exhausted programmers. Boo-ya. Lickity-splickity. You can put your clothes back on. Dr. Tully has cured your disease. Goddamn, that was easy.
I'm speaking from personal experience, of course. I didn't direct a film in 2007, thereby giving me nothing to submit to the first flurry of film festivals for 2008. And I must say, this has been one of the most pleasant, relaxing Thanksgiving weekends that I can remember. I watched a ton of college basketball and college football, saw a bunch of movies, ate pounds upon pounds of good food, hung out with my family, and got to play with these three cuties:
It's funny. This summer I was a little concerned when I knew that I wasn't going to have a film finished in time to hit the festival circuit in 2008. After two very-very fun years presenting my first two films to audiences at many different festivals, I thought I might be swallowed by a crushing wave of failure when winter arrived this year and I knew I had nothing to look forward to in that regard. But here I am, sitting on a couch at my parents' house, watching OJ Mayo and USC play Southern Illinois, fully aware that filmmakers all over the country are feeling blasts of extreme joy or disappointment, fully aware that I couldn't be further from making another movie if I were the neighbor's dog, and at this very moment, I feel great about it. Of course, this will probably change in the coming weeks, when announcements are made and my natural cycle dips back into the mud, but for now, I'm enjoying this surprisingly peaceful state of being.
I fully concur with AJ Schnack's feelings with regards to Sundance. Nothing against that festival, but I would love nothing more than to establish a credible filmmaking career without ever having screened my work there. And so far I've done surprisingly well. So take it from me, folks. Don't hang yourself if you don't get into Sundance. Wait until you get rejected from South by Southwest, then hang yourself!
In all seriousness, if I may get a tiny bit negative before I depart for the day, I would like to point out something that I find deeply troubling when it comes to Sundance (and I will try to be as vague as possible so as not to implicate anyone directly). Let's just say that I have a friend working on a film that was submitted to this year's festival. To get right down to business, I was deeply disturbed when this friend told me that Sundance called them and gave them a very dramatic editorial ultimatum (for the record, perhaps it was only a strong suggestion, but when you're dealing with a festival that has such a profound influence, these aren't mere suggestions). Is nobody bothered by this type of behavior? Shouldn't a director or producer be the person to decide how long a film is going to be, or which characters the film is going to focus on? I'm sure the selection committee is extremely insightful and intelligent, but there's a difference between providing feedback and making intimidating editorial suggestions. Perhaps this story was relayed to me incorrectly, but to be honest, it's not the first time that I've heard it (I just never heard it so blatantly). If this type of behavior continues, maybe Sundance should change their motto to:
Not Only Do We Make Your Career, We Make Your Film Too!
My congratulations/condolences/etc. to all of you who made films this year. Praise and acclaim and glory are certainly nice rewards for all of your hard work, but even if none of those things come, you made a film, and that, my friends, is all that really matters.