The Toll of Rejection



Today was a regular day. I received two rejection letters, juggled two clients with their video editing needs, had phone meetings with two potential gigs that will ensure that I have a roof over my head, health care insurance, and food on the table. All of this while preparing new grant applications, marketing a completed film. Every single day this week was 12 hours long. This is not just my life, it is that of many of my artist friends creating spectacular work.


I am really good at processing rejection - rejection from gigs, grants, fellowships, clients, potential characters in films, film festivals, market places, pitch contests, conferences, distributors, sales agents, etc It is far more common than you can imagine. More people say no than yes. That's the nature of the business.


Yet emails like the screenshot shown hurt real bad. So close yet so far. Am I supposed to feel good that I have made it so far yet saw no tangible benefit? I doubt they will offer any feedback. I have reached final rounds before with the promise of feedback and none offered eventually.


None of this stops me or most other filmmakers from working hard, improving their work, being more creative and putting plans B, C, D, E, F into action. It is not about losing hope but it is definitely worth a moment of reflection. How can we make this grant writing process more sustainable particularly for filmmakers with little or no support? If a project advanced to the final rounds can they be supported in non-monetary ways? Can they get a small advantage in the next grant cycle? Can they receive a letter of support for subsequent grant applications? How do they benefit from the fact that their project advanced so far? The absence of a step or ladder to inch closer takes a toll. That feels like a slippery slope. And I would say this is true for most of my fellow filmmakers and artists. How can we create a more supportive process?


Incidentally, I am on a panel to discuss Mental Health and Career Sustainability in March. Learn more at https://www.nywift.org/event/mental-health-and-career-sustainability-in-the-doc-world/