Last March, I ran a crowd-funding campaign for a short film called Evergreen. I linked to it in another blog post I wrote for Pyragraph. It failed. Terribly. In fact, it did so poorly that I’m embarrassed to even tell you how much we raised. The campaign took a ton of work, prep for the film took even longer, and all I was left with was personal disappointment and a discouraged crew.
I failed. But that’s okay. Failing is part of what it means to be a filmmaker. In any filmmaker’s career, there are bound to be flops. A miscast star, a producer lacking vision, or a single production hiccup can destroy a great film. I often think about how classics of cinema like Citizen Kane or It’s a Wonderful Life were originally box office flops. If it can happen to Orson Welles and Frank Capra, it can happen to anyone.
As a filmmaker you follow a rich and unspoken tradition of flops, mistakes, and failures.
I wish I could tell you the best way to carry on after something you’ve worked on so hard has failed, but I don’t have that answer. What I do know is that you must. A filmmaker doesn’t just talk about making films. She doesn’t draw up elaborate storyboards or pen a script just to set them on a shelf to collect dust. A filmmaker finishes—and the exhibition of your color-corrected and well-mixed film on a screen somewhere is the evidence of your right to claim that title.
But when you fail, and I hope you do (because there is nothing so annoying as a filmmaker lacking any degree of humility), you can take solace in knowing that it is part of the very process of being a filmmaker. Failure isn’t defeat—not in the slightest. Defeat is when you let any failure define you and then give up.
What inspires a person to make films is personal and unique, but I believe the quality filmmakers all share is the will to carry on. They have all dared to dream and blazed new and perilous trails. Like the poster on my wall says: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” (wise words from Joseph Campbell). To be sure, there is good reason for that fear. Failure is real and its consequences can be immense.
Just remember that you are not alone! As a filmmaker you follow a rich and unspoken tradition of flops, mistakes and failures created by people with a certain type of quality—filmmakers all of them. As I write this article, I am myself in the final days of my second fundraising campaign for Evergreen. I hope you’ll check it out and contribute. With only a few days left, we have done so much better than last time, but the campaign is still too close to call. It could fail. Again. But if it does, that’s okay. It’s still part of what it means to be a filmmaker.