November 15, 2010
“You have to collect one hundred ‘no’s for a single ‘yes’”
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.”
* * *
These are just some of the things that echo through my ears on a daily basis.
Whether they fall from a friend’s lips in an attempt to embolden me, or are chanted in a mantra before dialing a new telephone number, or the lullaby I coo to myself at night to stave away the tears at the end of another seemingly fruitless day, I find I’ve grown tired of these now-bland adages and I’m starting to ask myself the hardest question I’ve ever had to face:
“When is it time to quit and move on?”
You see, I am trying to raise money. And not just a little bit of money, a lot of money.
One million dollars.
* * *
Next month, on December 20, to be exact, it will have been five years since I penned the first draft of what would eventually become Lullaby.
The journey has been far from uneventful.
The [re]writing process alone has produced 32 unique revisions, 3,800 pages, 570,000 words, 8 main characters, 79 unique speaking characters, 142 non-speaking featured extras, countless background extras and 56 unique locations and has eventually been whittled down to 108 pages, 5 main characters, 9 supporting characters, 15 additional speaking roles, 44 features extras, 100+ background extras and 18 locations.
At one point, I had two producers to help me make this film and we had raised $4 million dollars, but then lost it right before pre-production started, which sent me into a deep depression that took more than a year to overcome.
After picking myself up and dusting myself off, I have cut the budget in half – twice, held public screenplay readings, sent queries, made cold calls, begged foundations, chased grants, courted actors, chatted-up new producers, made a promotional teaser, built a website, started a production blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed. I’ve submitted to countless screenwriting competitions and networked my ass off to get noticed, and when I felt I had exhausted every other possible option, I packed up and moved to Florida to be ‘on location’ and explore what local support might be available.
And I am not complaining.
It’s what it takes nowadays. I know this. Long gone are the days of Patronage. Today it’s a DIY game. With our government officials ignoring the importance of the Arts and our philanthropic organizations teetering on the brink of extinction, you quite simply can’t do the “show” without the doing “business” as well.
* * *
I’ve heard it said: “If you’re not getting rejected daily, you’re not working hard enough” and I’ve read many tales of tenacious resolve and unflagging perseverance and finally breaking through and making that film, or publishing that book, or selling that painting – some with gestational periods far longer than my current (and seemingly average) five years, but what about all of those who couldn’t take it anymore?
At what point do the indefatigable rejections stop being personal?
Artists need a thick skin (another adage I would like to drop-kick in the delicates), but I’ve never found the ability to embrace the ‘Meh’ and move on.
Every single goddamn time.
I still equate people not liking the project with not liking me. Me! ME!?!?!? How can someone not like me, not want to be involved with this amazing thing that I wrote, not be super-charged and simultaneously moved to tears by its message, not believe in it as strongly as I do, not want to eat, drink, sleep and breathe it every minute of every day like I do?
And then I jump on the hamster-wheel of doubt: Is it any good? Am I any good? Am I a “Creative”? Maybe I’m not a Creative. Maybe I should just go back to being “Production” where I’m merely a facilitator of other peoples’ creativity. It’s the Peter Principle at work: succeed until the point of failure. And that’s what I am. A failure. A complete and utter failure. Have I just wasted the last five years of my life? Five years! People have met, fallen in love, gotten married, had children and divorced in shorter time frames! Perhaps it really IS time to throw in the towel.
And if I did, if I really got to the point of quitting, what would I do then?
* * *
I got some feedback once that always strikes me as particularly funny:
“You are clearly a very strong writer; have you considered adapting this as a novel?[…] once the novel garners success, it would be much easier for LULLABY to attract financing and to succeed commercially as a film.”
* * *
I don’t have any real answers here.
I don’t think I have it in me to quit – I mean really quit.
But I do I toy with the idea of giving it all up and opening a little dessert speakeasy.
It would be called “Spirited”. It’d have a plentiful bakery case filled with ‘drunk cakes’ and confections of every variety. With one common ingredient: Alcohol.
And there’d be a bar. With fancy cocktails. A candy store, of sorts.
Guinness chocolate cupcakes filled with a mocha-whiskey ganache and Bailey’s buttercream icing, Key lime mojito pie, Kahlua cream profiteroles, Strawberry margarita marshmallows, DiSaronno marzipan, Bananas Foster brownies, Brandy Alexander pie, Flourless dark-chocolate cake drizzled with a port-wine pomegranate reduction… my list is endless.
And I think I would be happy there in my little bakery.
But it’s also terrifying.
The minute I make that decision, I’m putting a nail in my own coffin; sealing off the dream that I’ve been dreaming of and working towards for (gasp!) thirty years now.
Can I give ‘The Man’ that kind of power? To let the fear of more rejection take away my dream?
* * *
And then again, maybe not.