My Loud “NO” Before a Soft “YES”

I once ran a campaign on a crowd-funding platform for our feature length film project which was, unashamedly, worth more to me than the estimated target of financing requested. Scripting the concept had been a two year process of research, development, writing and subsequently roping in a script editor when I felt confident enough to have other eyes glance over my beloved baby. Mind, body, heart, accompanied by fiercely passionate spirit had been poured into forming what I regarded a timely and important message. Its shorter counter part, “Blind” had faired extremely well, managing to scrape the international space with its global appeal. It got people talking. Which is exactly what we wanted when we set out to create conversations rather than critisize convention. Then, uncannily, in all that bubbling promise, Black Panther identity was gushing across our screens like a tidal wave of ethnic expression. Wakanda was an “it” place. Accents with less twang and more stagger were suddenly desirable. Colour burst into cinematic view (in more ways than one). The world was ready to see more African films on a bigger stage. I was an African with a film. It was practically in the bag! Right?

“People will invest in what they see. You sticking it out may be one of those things”

So, pitch video made, yours truly front and center: Check. Links to site blasted on social media for all my contacts / collegues to circulate: Check. Regular updates posted on fundraising: Check. Further screening venues confirmed in Los Angeles and Chicago: Double check. I opted to give the campaign a comfortable 90 days to reach 100% of the goal. During the first month, it never phased me that nothing came in. My duck shoulders let it slide smoothly on; even when a collegue in Chicago told me nothing of what I wanted to hear by saying I should give it at least another year or two before making this move. It was out there and there was no turning back. Second month in, my updates and posts had an air of subdued franticism. I probably became the bane of many inboxes’ existance. Being familiar with last minute breakthroughs, I soldiered on, preparing for the process by finding HODs, location scouting for certain key scenes as well as getting the ball rolling on auditions. Hubby dearest, who’d been observing thoughtfully asked me a question that smacked the sass out of my bougie street smarts: “What will you do if it doesn’t happen now?” The idea of a back up got my back up (ok, I’ll stop). Here’s the kind of person I am: analytical and obstinately strong willed. If it resignates upstairs, I’ll be halfway to the door before you realise I can see an opening. Words like “impossible” are often triggers that challenge me to change the status quo. Which is great when its no guts, no glory. Not so great when you’re flogging a dead horse. His question was like a manual over-ride to the excuses my brain had formulated for the lack of tangible results. When the third month lapsed, the campaign raised exactly $0. Multiplied by the current exchange rate of 13 also gives R0 in South African currency. To add salt to injury, there was an article written in a reknown newspaper on how I, the “go-getter” had a film project which was “set to take off”. Readers were enlightened to the fact that this local girl was overseas, accumilating all the finances and backing required to totally crush it. SUPER. SIZED. CRINGE. The worst part was having to answer the “What’s happening with the film?” questions. Admittedly, I set myself up for the latter confusion. Maybe it was the confidence in my presentation as I projected timelines. Or the contracts I drew up. I never banked on a steep shortfall of harvested cyber investors.

“Some things are better swallowed. Chew, and it’ll eat you up”

What’s the first thing you do when you’ve had the most epic belly flop in full view of everyone around the pool? You quickly swim to the surface, cooly pull your most impressive stroke and pretend, very astutely, that it didn’t hurt. Under the water though, your stomach is burning like hell. That was me. My days were a medley of going about my business, playing the ultimate cucumber, while privately, I’d moan endlessly about how / why I thought the campaign bombed. Or obsess over the number of spectators who witnessed my “fall from grace”. A speck in the glass had put me off the whole drink. I’d rather go thirsty than down the fact that it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be. Every reason it didn’t work became everything wrong with me. My name, my face, my work was splashed across a dud on the world wide web. Oh the shame! The horror! Somebody please get me a hole boasting enough girth for me to crawl into but not so big that others can see I’m lying in the dust. I’ve attracted too much negative attention already. Was it a pity party, you ask? I dunno. There was dimmed mood lighting, a sombre DJ in the corner playing bluesy jams and I could swear guests were offered a piping hot plate of humble pie. But no-one wanted to eat it because…..well, we’re here for the vibe. The turning point came when “Woke Up This Way” eeked its way into my creative nerves. “Another one?” I thought exasperately. “In the same vicinity of my belly flop?” I still had to go home and face my defeat. Nope. Not today. Yet the characters and dialogue continued to seep into my concious until I had to let them out onto the blank screen in front of me. There. It was real. I couln’t relegate the project to a figment of my imagination anymore. I was confronted by an opportunity I never even dreamed of while the one of my dreams seemed shelved. This caught me by complete surprise. I’d pined over the sunset of the previous film when a new one was already dawning. Instead of taking it on the chin, I prayed for a TKO. Truth be told, I was refusing to be humble about the entire thing. Kicking and screaming, I was pushed to admit that the absolute sum of my efforts won’t always result in met expectation. You’ve got to take the bad as much as the good. Key phrase in “doo-doo” is, well, “do”. Success is messy business. Plus no-one said 100% was strictly achieved in one sitting. There’s a term for when the light bulb switches on, especially for stubborn folk – breaking point. Or if you’re leaning towards euphoric terminology, an “Aha” moment.

“Travel light for the journey is long”

People often talk about the industry needing thick skin; like we’re somehow always invariably bullet proof. What about the shots that sink in? How does one stay healthy when gall smothers any positivity? I’ve found a releasing heart can be very powerful. There’s nothing wrong with feeling disappointed. You’re in the red zone when an isolated incident becomes a place you call home. Belts have standard notches, which serve their purpose to a lot of wearers. New notches that have to be created are because of the unusual size of the owner. The bigger they are, the more you’ll probably have to wedge into the seemingly unyeilding leather. Normal is cut and paste. Extra ordinary will take some negotiating. And pushing. And troubles others will probably live without. Be intentional to “let go and let God”. You’re not going to control everything or everyone in your life. There’ll be incidents you’ll want a do-over. However, the clock ticks forward. Release it. If it comes back another day / way remember, its another day / way. Understand what it means to be objective. An objective attitude does not exempt you from running into potholes. It does however, take the emotions away, leaving you a clear reasoning capacity to abandon the current route, swerve and recalculate. That serves you better than flying into an empassioned fit of road rage followed by grumbling all the way to your next destination. Looking back from a different landscape, the small parts that frustrated me make sense in the bigger picture. I did come home with a film, just not the one I origionally planned. It was a local picture, exactly as I had wanted, though the context was a complete one-eighty.

Instead of holding tightly on to “broken pieces”, release what you have and allow the fragments to fall together in a unique puzzle. Whether you get it right or wrong, know that this is life, not an exam.

Blessings and love

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