Sunday, April 2, 2017

(On talent and success)

Ten months ago in May, I wrote a little poem called Elegy and it was printed my creative writing class's book. It was about the end of high school- the cocktail that's two parts nostalgia and one part excitement, and I was currently going through it.

It was only a month earlier I'd attended NFFTY in Seattle, the biggest youth film festival in the world. And I was hooked. All my pervious narrative short films hadn't been very personal; they were all overly dramatic, dealing with concepts death I wasn't ready to grapple with. When I asked myself what I wanted to do next, I looked no further than my work in creative writing class. It was personal. It was real. It was what my films needed, especially if I wanted to get into NFFTY.

So I started writing a screenplay.

I finished writing it in November, we shot it in December, edited it in January, and I submitted it to the NFFTY film festival in February. A month later, I got an email.

NFFTY officially selected 257 films from 28 states and 27 countries.

I'm not writing this to brag; I'm writing this to make a point:

Was everything I just told you true? 
...but it wasn't honest.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that it's all too easy to romanticize creative work into this magical process that feels like a cake walk. When you watch that trailer, it looks like I know what I'm doing. I don't, and I wanna go into that a little.

I originally wanted finish the film for the All American High School Film Festival. The deadline was June. When I didn't make that, I started shooting for August. And then September. And then October. Before I knew it I was telling myself 'shoot it before Thanksgiving.'

Elegy was supposed to take place in the summer, for crying out loud.

Definitely not Summer.

Only three people showed up to audition for the film, and we were casting two parts. (I got lucky.)
I had budgeted for two days of shooting, and it took four.
I almost ran out of money.

Keeping up the morale of the cast and crew is hard when it's three degrees outside, and even harder when the truck you're borrowing gets stuck in the snow on a mountain and you have to wait four hours until someone manages to pull it out.

After that, editing the film was an emotional nightmare that took up all of my time. I had to get a month off work, and I could barely look at the footage without crying. It wasn't exactly what I wanted. I didn't touch the film for weeks out of fear of how it would turn out.

Fifteen days before the deadline my composer dropped out and I had to scramble to find a replacement, and figure out how they were gonna write six songs in two weeks.
(Again, I got lucky.)

On the night of the deadline, I still hadn't finished the film.

I was having panic attacks every thirty minutes, trying to finish the thing in a ludicrous amount of time. Come midnight, and I was defeated. After debating about whether or not I should even pay the $60 dollar submission fee, I uploaded what I had finished and submitted it as a rough cut. I was embarrassed to submit the film to such a respected festival.

But when you're looking at a goddamn Instagram post, you wouldn't know any of that.

It's easy to look successful, and it's hard to admit you almost gave up.

(As for whether or not the film is actually any good? I can now confidently say that it is, and I'm proud to have worked with such talented people on it.)


  1. How is it that you never cease to amaze me

    Sometimes I think you don't know how to be boring, and that's something more people need to know how to not be.

    Congratulations, I'm excited to watch your film. (:

    (Also, you deleted a post before I saw it and I'm only a little mad.)
    (Or a lot.)


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