Winners Aren't the Best
For anyone not acquainted with the film industry, here's a brief overview of the process: you make a film, upload it to this forum called "FilmFreeway" and from there you can browse over 7,000 film festivals worldwide, read the eligibility criteria, and choose which festivals you want to submit to. I usually choose ones with a strong social justice mission, that are not TOO expensive to enter, and ones that have cool prizes.
Last year, I submitted to six festivals, and every time my email dinged with a notification from "FilmFreeway" I got butterflies until I opened it, and it said, "not selected". Then, for the very last festival I heard from, it was an acceptance to New York City! Y'all know that story.
This year, I made a second film. We submitted to 4 or 5 festivals, and then 112 more festivals emailed us directly ASKING us to submit to their festival because they liked the work so much. In the end, we submitted to 64 film festivals, and the results will continue to roll in over the Fall film season. I have already been accepted to Italy, Spain, Russia twice, 9 states, British Columbia, India and the Czech Republic.
There are currently trophies being shipped RIGHT NOW to my home here in the little tiny East Coast of Canada, making a global mark. It's humbling and exciting to see that people are viewing MY art, an idea I had, a mission I set out to accomplish. My definition for a successful film season is this: if one person is touched by this film I made and labored over, sitting by the window envisioning every line and angle and audio, then my mission is accomplished.
Sometimes I get confused as to why film festivals want my low-budget, black and white, 7 minute long, shot-in-two hours film. I can't understand it - how am I winning while competing with professionals in the industry?
Here's the thing - I have no idea what I am doing. I have never been trained in anything film related, I have zero experience, and frankly get too bored to watch a movie from start to finish. I have no idea the last time I watched a movie.
And yet...somehow...I keep coming out on top.
And I think I've learned why. I am NOT the best film director in the world. There have been far better scripts written, I am NOT the most talented, have the most experience, or loaded with sponsors to make large-scale expensive films. That doesn't matter when you think of what I DO have in my back pocket: passion, drive, motivation, creativity, love, empathy, confidence, a love for story-telling and - for better or worse -- I am incredibly stubborn. I make films that pull on your heart strings; make you slightly uncomfortable; push the envelope; amplify the voices of marginalized populations; and broaden a much needed discussion about the mental health care system. Something about this short, but raw and candid film is pressing on people's hearts. It is challenging them. They have a renewed sense of how necessary mental health reform is.
Let me assure you, my film is not the best. It is MY best. So remember: success isn't about being the best at a given thing; success is pulling up your boot straps, willing to get knee-deep in dirt, and adding your unique flare to all that you do. It doesn't take money to make a difference; trust me I don't have much. It doesn't take expertise, because of that I have none.
It takes a person ready, willing, and able to get out there, face the world, leave timidity at home, and pursue their dreams by utilizing innate strengths.
You don't need to be the best to win. You need to be YOUR best. And you need to want it.
Give it your ALL, and watch it prosper.