In film fund-raising 101 they tell you this: “Whatever you do when you ask people for money, don’t tell them it’s so you can realize your own dream.”
In my own case, this is not a problem. It’s almost embarrassing. I am living so far past what I dreamed for myself that I can’t say it’s my dream. My dream was to be a famous, Nobel-prize winning, best-selling novelist. I did complete a novel. I did get an agent. I did receive extremely glowing rejection letters. Note the word rejection.
Of course, then a friend of mine asked me to come audition for a play, and I drove home from the audition crying my eyes out. I walked in the door, still crying, and said to my partner, “I think I’ve been in the wrong art form my entire life.”
I have learned that no matter how driven and ambitious and passionate you are, there are always sudden turns and curves in life. I have learned that no matter how well I think I know myself, there’s always a new surprise lurking.
Surprise #1: I really do like acting better than writing. Not by a lot, but still. Surprise #2: I don’t like writing novels that much. I much prefer plays and screenplays.
Anyhow. I said I’d attempt to stay on subject.
So if film-making isn’t my dream, then why am I doing it? Well, I love film, and I love acting for film, so I’ve been around the medium, so I started thinking in it, and then I wrote a screenplay (or two) because that’s how the stories started to come.
This particular story–Saint John the Divine in Iowa–called to me. We had a staged reading and people wouldn’t leave. They seemed to just want to talk. And I started really wanting to just make this story. This one story. It just so happened that it was about marriage. I mean, I didn’t write about gay marriage to be political. I wrote about it because I care about love and how people get to love each other. I wrote this story out of the best that I have in me, and I am passionate about that–about goodness, and morality, and what I’ve learned about love. With all the political and important messages that might be in this film, I just want to make the story because I think it’s beautiful, because I think it says something deeply human about our struggles to love each other, and that, in the end, is the message that I care about. How do we love each other? How do we learn to love well? How do we suffer in order to be better? Living those questions and making art about them is my real dream, I guess.
Rule broken. (It is guaranteed that this will happen. I break rules. Whenever I can.)
Of course, film-making, or more precisely, film-fundraising, is incredibly, incredibly difficult. How do we suffer in order to be better? We ask people for money or help and get disappointed at least 25 times for every time we get a win. I’ve been writing about religion and faith without saying that my faith in my ability to get this done is tested all day every day. I was told by the first person I asked that if I didn’t have 20 millionaires on tap to ask, then to do something else.
You know what they say about writing a novel? If you want to write a novel, go into a room, lay down, and wait for the feeling to pass. If it doesn’t pass, poor you. Go to the computer and write the damn thing.
This is exactly like that.
I fought for my novel for a while, a pretty long while, and I kept get “almost.” Eventually I gave up. The novel still sits in a drawer, and I still think I said something beautiful about the redemption of women’s friendships, but it’s painful to take out the novel, because I feel two things–1) that I let the book down and 2) is there something wrong with it I just didn’t see? And then I read it, and it’s not perfect, but I still think it’s very good and true, so it comes down to okay, my artistic life needed to change, but I shouldn’t have given up.
So, tests all day every day… to belief. To belief in myself, in the project, in what I am doing with my life, temptations for all the things that I already know how to do and are, therefore, easier. Worry that someone on my team will find out how hard it is to be up against these tests and lose faith because of me.
But today I’m reading Sharon Salzberg on metta…lovingkindness. Turning lovingkindness on oneself is her topic. I have craved honesty all my life. I have craved belief. So I am continuing to believe, but I am saying that it is very difficult and challenging. Because I can’t stand not saying what is. I mean, really. I grew up with a lot of people who couldn’t stand saying what is (I grew up upper middle class keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and got out asap), but I never understood why they couldn’t stand telling the truth then and I barely understand it now.
Anyhow. May the stories of all beings be heard. May all beings live in truth and grace. May we be free from suffering. May we find peace.