Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old Stuff: Dogwalker Distribution (2006)

As you know, my wife Diane and I are dancing around the country distributing our first feature "The Dogwalker". It has been quite an experience - part of which you can read about in another soon-to-be-posted blog - from which we have already learned an immense amount. And still more to learn. Much of what we are learning, however, has been about ourselves.

Filmmakers, even more so than many creative people, constantly need to do periodic reality checks. Our imaginations and actual productions are so incredibly expansive that our expectations for the success of what we create can't help but explode beyond the bounds of reality. In our case. we've experienced some incredible highs and painful lows during the distribution of our film and have noticed that the lows have only hit us hardest when they are the product of unrealized (or under-realized) expectation. However, guess what remains when we remove the expectation. Appreciation. Yes, it's the old glass half-full/half-empty perceptual axiom. There's always two ways to feel about a situation. Intellectually you can examine it from either perspective (or both). But when it comes to what kind of emotion it produces in you, would you rather feel appreciation for what is or disappointment about what is not? A no-brainer, in my mind. Especially if the other option is disappointment born from unrealistic expectation.

How many times have I talked to filmmakers devastated that their film was not accepted to this or that festival? That it wasn't "sold" into distribution. And/or that it simply didn't turn out in any other way as they expected. Many of us are first-time filmmakers. In my case, a first-time feature filmmaker. But filmmaking is a complex art, a process, that takes years of experience to master. There are always exceptions, of course (the things you always hear about in the media), but I'm sure everyone from Van Gogh to Ed Wood did not expect the earth to move for them after their first efforts. But we filmmakers create these kind of expectations all the time. For more reasons than I can get into right now.

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But even if our first work is brilliant, we cannot manage the public's reaction to it. They have have their own unfathomable ways of coming to embrace new creative work, with their aesthetic appetites often informed (and usually corrupted) by a very slick, cynical mainstream media. As noted, there are occasional exceptions, but if you are doing truly visionary work, it will take some time for advocates and gatekeepers of all sort to find you out. And it will take the general public even longer. So, for lack of a better phrase, we filmmakers need to get real.

We've screened for packed houses and relatively empty houses. And in the end both were just people seeing the film. We've had good reviews and bad reviews. And in the end, both were just people responding to the film. Neither praise nor scorn is the truth. The truth is the experience, not the expectation.

And reality brings us appreciation. Diane and I are in an amazing situation. That our film is getting a theatrical release and being reviewed - positively or negatively - is both statistically and emotionally incredible. But even rewinding it all backward, we are fortunate that it has played in festivals. Fortunate that it ever got made. Fortunate that we ever had a creative thought in our heads. If you've experienced any of these things then count yourselves as fortunate, too. Because in the end, being alive, present and appreciative is everything. Living as a creative being is a special gift aside from that. And the rest,...just gravy.

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