0 and 1 work well for making various files on your computer. I regard rejection and acceptance as a similar binary system that creates powerful feedback on your artwork.
Just one 0 doesn’t create new information. You need many 0’s and many 1’s, many rejections and acceptances to really know where your work fits in the contemporary social/art context.
Remember my blog entry on April 18th, where I wrote about the Friday April 13th deadline? While dashing to deliver the submission I run into a husband of a friend who just got a Guggenheim (which I have never managed to get). I pondered what it all meant, to be submitting on April 13th and getting to hear a success story on the same day. Was it a good omen? was it ominous?
The IFP Independent Filmmaker Labs that offered support to projects in the form of editing and post production workshops, the help with distribution, marketing, PR – the insanely needed support for independent films, the support I dreamt in my sleep and daydreamed while awake…
We didn’t get it.
A nice rejection letter arrived in my email box last Friday, said only 7 per cent of submitted projects were accepted. Not “Rocks”.
Nice wording and consolation of being in the 93 rejected per cent doesn’t ease the pain of being stabbed near the heart. I went through several stages of dealing with the rejection:
1) hurt. All the mad hopes for the last 2 months went crushing down like a badly constructed building, killing all the puppies I had under the roof and injuring my chest. Boy, it hurts.
2) humiliation. The letter clearly said the building was badly constructed, because my project was not one of the winning 7 per cent. The pride I took in the project was thrown into a shithole and spat on.
3) self flagellation. It became obvious that the sole person responsible for the building being badly built was me. Most likely the proposal was not well thought out as it failed to entice the IFP Committee. But maybe the whole project is just a failure? I could (imaginary) hear the Committee laugh out loud when they watch the work in progress and comment: – What is this? Are they serious?! Makes me puke.
4) anger. Then one part in me raised up, stood up for the (imaginary) Committee and said: – The project is darn good! You are fools who don’t understand animation!
Of course, how would IFP Labs Committee understand animation if IFP Labs have never supported a fully animated film before (not sure if “Howl” counts as fully animated feature)? Do they even know how to look at a line test? Can they connect the animated dots? Rrrgh… I could tell one or two things to that Committee!
5) depression. If normally I have a rate of suicidal thoughts about one in every 16 seconds, then these bad news increased the ratio to one in every 8 seconds, canceling out my thoughts about sex (normally one in every 9 seconds). I just wanted to crawl under my bed an die. Fortunately, neither me nor dust can crawl under my bed (my bed doesn’t have legs). Instead, I got two bottles of Sierra Nevada and self medicated.
6) numbness. Of course, after a couple of sleepless nights of train of thoughts running senselessly on the same track round and around a moment arrives when one can’t think of anything anymore. Nor feel anything.
7) acceptance. Well, it is what it is. They don’t like and they don’t want “Rocks In My Pockets”. What I am going to do about it? Nothing. Move on.
8) moving on. I went back to work and felt happy again.
9) forgetting. I forgot all about the rejection till I wrote about it on my blog.
As to rejection being an important part of a binary feedback system – I still insist that one rejection doesn’t mean anything. Although “Rocks In My Pockets” was rejected support quite a few times (about 6 -8 times), it had received support 3 times (not counting 76 individual supporters via IndieGoGo campaign). The question that burns deep holes in filmmakers’ flesh – who is going to see my film? can only be answered when the filmmaker releases her film into the wider world free of Committees. Although, to tell you the truth, no World is completely free of Committees, they are everywhere. Sometimes the question that burns holes in filmmakers’ intestines: – Where will I get money and support for my film? is answered only by a Committee, profit or non-profit. We live if we master the art of persuasion. We die if we don’t look good on paper.
Here’s the “Rocks In My Pockets” project summary we submitted to IFP Labs:
“Rocks In My Pockets” could be called a detective story, as the main character tries to pinpoint the elusive killer of the women in her family – depression. The story spans from 1905 in Latvia to 2010 in New York. It examines the lives of people from different eras and countries bound by the same mental illness. The differences of their historic circumstances only highlight the similarities of their affliction.
The story is about 5 different women told from a woman’s point of view. It raises questions of how much heredity, upbringing, social pressures and their own expectations from marriage/life affect women’s mental health. The film doesn’t judge or takes sides. It lets the viewer make up his/her own mind.
Depression is a universal issue and is universally difficult to talk about. Universal, because we have all either suffered from it or know someone who is suffering. Difficult, because depression still is stigmatized. Although widespread, it is regarded by the mainstream public as ‘a shameful mental illness’, preferably kept private. “Rocks In My Pockets” tackles suicide and depression openly, bravely and with humor. It doesn’t shy away from revealing deeply personal, internal struggles with depression, obsessive suicidal thoughts, pain, despair or self-destructive behavior.
Although animation is usually associated with children’s films or a lighthearted TV comedy, it is yet a perfect medium to address the seriousness of this subject. Animation is capable of infusing thought and emotion with humor in a concise form. The humor gives an edge to “Rocks In My Pockets”. Unlike the mainstream live action films that treat mental illness in a conventional, melodramatic way (“Black Swan”, “Shutter Island”, “Take Shelter”), “Rocks In My Pockets” uses humor as a tool to address the absurdity, irony and pain that mental illness brings to a person’s life and family.
“Rocks In My Pockets” has a few unique approaches in visual storytelling.
First, it follows a long tradition of Eastern European illustrators and animators using visual metaphors as a visual shortcut to express complex feelings and concepts. The metaphors used in the project are made accessible to the American public by using familiar contemporary images charged with symbolic meaning.
Second, animated images don’t just illustrate the narrative, they actually tell a parallel story of characters’ inner lives, their inexpressible feelings and thoughts.
Third, the project explores a combination of techniques – stop motion, traditional hand-drawn animation and digital technology. It gives the project a unique, artistic look. The highly personal visual style accents the fact that the story is deeply personal.
Fourth, although it deals with a dark subject matter, the images are vibrant and full of color. This helps to state the life-affirming message of the film.
“Rocks In My Pockets” main goal is to incite a dialogue about depression and to make people think about it outside the box. Our highest hope is to shake an audience with the film, to provoke a discussion and stimulate an independent, more expansive way of thinking.