Photo by Peter Varga
I love film festivals. Love them. There is no experience like a gaggle of creatives, who have put their energy into a project and simply want people to see it. Despite the few egos that exist in the room, the atmosphere pulsates with pure energy. These people are pushing boundaries and riding high on the magnitude of what they have accomplished. Each filmmaker had a unique series of challenges to overcome to get to this point.
I make it a point to sit and chat with a couple of emerging filmmakers at every film festival I attend. We discuss their projects. I always inquire about their background, their experience with the production, how they raised their money, what do they plan to do with the film, who is their audience and so much more. These are good questions to ask, because at some point someone will inquire. What they say and how they say it are very telling.
Aside from their responses, I ask all this to better understand the challenges that emerging filmmakers continue to face. If we want to reach our goal of helping the next generation of filmmakers, we must understand them and what they face. Their challenges will define who they are as filmmakers. I like to remind people that how you approach something is just as important as what you do. Check out this example.
After we have had a good chat, the conversation ends with a handshake, encouragement, and a business card. I tell each one that I would love to help and they should email me if they have questions or if I can be any help. I always hope for the best and look forward to their email. However, one thought always lingers in the back of my mind: a small percentage of people will actually send that email.
This fact is ubiquitous across any industry or profession. Even in an atmosphere of doers only a small percentage makes that call or sends that email. If this is you, then you are doing it wrong. The reason the email remains unsent is unimportant, because it is always a missed opportunity. Why would you stop as you get close to the finish line? Insanity.
I’m not saying it is easy to overcome, but you can overcome it. Before sending my own emails, I still hear the little voice in the back of my mind telling me all the reasons the person will say “No”. However, I know that voice is full of it. I remind myself to never say “No” for another person before they say “No” to me. How will I – or you – ever get a “Yes” if you never ask?
You must immediately start thinking differently. You have all heard the sayings that each “No” gets you closer to a yes. Blah, blah, blah. While that is true, it is so esoteric that it makes zero sense. Do you plan on making a list until you get a yes? Just like you have to tear off a number until you get the right one. I like to switch perspective and think that if someone came to me for help, I would help them. I know so many great people in this business that if I reach out to my network, someone will help. Make those friends and all boats will rise with the tide.
If someone gives you a “No” brush it off. You are still alive, you haven’t ruined your career, nothing has changed. Not all partnerships work. It could actually mean, “not right now” instead of a hard stop. You will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get a “Yes!”, if you do not ask the question. Take a chance today, send that email or make that call, but be able to articulate clearly what you need. You might end up with the answer you want and to think it all just started with sending an email.