short films

On Getting Rejected (again and again and again) by Reese Hayes

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Today, I received my official letter of rejection to the Stareable Web Series Festival via film freeway. Actually, I found out I wasn’t accepted to the fest yesterday when I checked their blog and saw the Official Selections List did not include the pilot of Cobblestoned. Honestly, I’m not very surprised by this decision as I’ve only been accepted to one short film festival over the span of my 13 years as a filmmaker, but I had my hopes up for this one and find myself disappointed nonetheless. After all, Cobblestoned is all of my friend’s favorite web series! That has to count for something, right?

Rejection is something everyone faces time and time again. It can really hurt to not be given an opportunity you believe you deserve. And as a filmmaker or artist, it can feel like the hard work you put into you art isn’t appreciated or that you, as an artist, don’t have what it takes. And I don’t know, maybe that’s true for me, but so far rejection hasn’t stopped me from continuing down the path of an independent filmmaker. But it’s definitely caused some serious setbacks.

Why can’t I make something that people want to see on a big screen? How will I ever break into the industry if no one sees my work? Am I even a real filmmaker if my small audience only watches half my film on YouTube?

I obviously don’t have answers to any of these questions, yet I ask them each time I get another rejection letter. At some point I might give up on submitting to festivals all together. It’s quite expensive and when you don’t get accepted it literally feels like throwing your money away. And that’s money I could have used on my next project!

It seems like some people get pumped up over rejections. Like it lights a fire under them and makes them work harder to get accepted next time. I wish I had this kind of personality, but I tend to creep into the darkness and wait for my inspiration to return. It’s not that I crave validation or constant attention, but being told you’re not good enough over and over again kinda sucks. It’s hard to keep going, but from my experience the only way to move past it is to make something new. So, this time I’m trying not to dwell on it. Yeah, it would have been fun to fly to New York, meet a bunch of people, and see how a live audience reacts to my film, but now I have a free weekend to make the next one!

I guess it stings because each time I make something new, I feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done yet. And usually it actually is. So, I get excited. I feel like I’m making progress in this ridiculous career path. This time, I’ll get an acceptance letter! But each time, I’m put in my place again. Maybe I need to stop valuing myself from what some festival curators see in me. Maybe I need to focus on making something my friends and family will enjoy. Maybe I should start my own film festival and accept my work every time!

Okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this post anymore. Rejection sucks, but it doesn’t mean you suck. I suppose it can take a long time to make something worth showing in a festival. Don’t let it get you down like it gets me down. From my experience, it’s not very healthy. Continue making things until you’ve made something no one can ignore. And maybe just save your money on short film fests. I don’t think they’re all that important anyway. Make a feature and get it into Sundance and then when it gets nominated for an Oscar and you ultimately win, get up to the podium with your little golden man, thank you mom and your producer, and put some shame on the people who told you no. And then laugh at them, because now you have a dumb little gold man that will forever sit on your shelf judging all those who enter your home.