Or, My Total Meltdowns and why I’m NOT going to let them stop me, EVER again.
Man does it ever FUCKING HURT having your Dreams Crushed! I was reminded of such a time just last week, when I got my rejection letter for the Netflix-Banff Diversity of Voices Initiative. I was reminded of another time, not so long ago, when I was completely destroyed by this feeling of rejection and failure.
On Jan 9th 2019, I got the unwelcome news that I had not been accepted into the, From Her Dark Side, genre screenwriting competition, which I applied for at the end of October of 2018. Applying to this contest was a big step for me, after many years of burying my dreams of writing and producing anything of my own. I finally forced myself to take a chance.
I had applied to this mentorship program with a project called Cult of You-niverse. This was a dystopian sci-fi adaptation based on a dark comedy TV series concept called Cult of You. This project has been near and dear to my heart for many years. The original idea was close to the hearts of all the ladies with whom I originally created the concept, back in 2005. It was a 14 year dream, with yet another rejection, another dent in the side. I was crushed!
In this moment, faced with my failure, I thought of the many “good reasons” why I keep giving up on myself, and my career aspirations of being a writer, creator and showrunner of this series, or any project for that matter. If you don’t try, then you can’t fail. So instead, I have been hiding from my creative passions for a very long time.
But, this was an idea I was so very attached to, with all my heart. I truly believe in it still, as do the women I originally created it with. Perhaps not all of them are fans of my latest version of it, but the bones of the original story were still there, and we all loved those bones dearly. I think they all at least supported me in taking a step towards my own creative dreams again. And, I don’t think I even told them the results.
Failure and disappointment are just so hard for me to take sometimes. I get so emotionally invested in projects like this one, and they become like my baby. And when someone says they don’t like my baby, and won’t support me in raising it, I feel crushed. I get so devastated, angry, defensive, frustrated, and I feel the rejection so personally. It makes me want to give up.
I am an extremely passionate person… just in case you haven’t already noticed that in my writing so far. I’ve got a big heart, big dreams and big goals. I always have. I’m also an over-reactor and I put a lot at stake emotionally, when I am committed to something. When it doesn’t work out, it’s like the end of the world for me. I’ve been this way since I was a child. I get so attached to my personal projects and it really stops me every time I hit a wall.
We tried pitching Cult of You once before. We created it in our last year of university in the Ryerson University TV program. And, when I came back from a year abroad in Europe following uni, we got the old writing gang back together again. We started to redevelop the original TV series concept into a web series in order to produce it ourselves.
We knew that at our level of inexperience, no broadcaster was going to give us real money to make it for TV ourselves. We would be too big of a risk. The money only goes to people with names and experience, even if their past projects haven’t been big successes, because at least they can be trusted to complete and deliver the project, at the very least.
We would have had to sell it to a big established production company, where they “know what they were doing”. And, likely they would want to change everything about it we loved, and it would fail to find a real audience, like a lot of Canadian TV series.
So, we applied to the Bell New Media Fund for funding to produce it for the web. But, we were rejected. At least they gave us a reason that time. This time with the Netflix-Banff initiative, and last year with the From Her Dark Side contest, I just got a bull-shit form letter that said, “there were just too many quality applications and we couldn’t accept everyone that we wanted to,” which tells me absolutely nothing valuable about why I was rejected. It just tells me “you loose, looser!”
Back in 2007, the people at the Bell New Media Fund responded saying, they really liked our idea, and thought it was really interesting, but they couldn’t fund it because they didn’t fund web series at the time. The fund was only for creating interactive websites as an extension to an existing broadcast TV series. Extra content related to the TV show with a proven audience.
We were simply ahead of our time in Canada. In the United States creators were getting notice, and interest from TV execs for web series like, “God Inc” and “Ask a Ninja” and a little later in 2008 came Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog from Joss Whedon’s, Mutant Enemy Productions. All of a sudden big boys were in the game, and the webseries became a “real thing”.
Canada has always been behind the United States, when it comes to pushing forward with arts, culture and entertainment. By the time Canada finally started putting together funding for web series productions, now known as the IPF (Independent Production Fund), it was 2010 and it was too late for Cult of You, we had all moved on with our lives.
So, pushing down my dreams of ever being able to make Cult of You in this country, I buried myself in the work of the soul-sucking advertising industry. For two years, I worked as a line producer at an ad agency’s in house production company. I produced commercials, corporate videos and online video marketing for giant corporations, and I hated it. But, it paid the bills.
I liked getting to produce, and having a budget to do it of course, but I hated the content, hated the brands we represented. I hated doing car commercials that were all the same and very boring. I hated selling shit I had no interest in at all. I mean I didn’t even have a driver’s license, what did I care about GM cars, for goodness sake?!
Then I met Alex, and he had a screenplay for a film that said absolutely everything that was on my mind at the time about the advertising industry. It was like he took the ramblings of my miserable artist heart, slowly dying a little more each day, from producing bull-shit, and selling crappy vehicles to the masses. He took it all that angst we shared and put it into a well written, brilliant, very darkly comedic satire about his life in advertising! It was incredible.
I was in love! And not just with Alex, who was my boyfriend at the time, but with his project that truly spoke to me. We connected over our shared misery of working in advertising, having given up on our dreams of creating our own indie content. I really fell in love with his film, and his creative anarchist mind.
In the end I had the same experience with Mr. Viral, I got so attached to this project… I ended up quitting my soul-sucking job at the advertising agency, to produce and production design the film starting in the fall of 2010. Mr. Viral, our movie baby was conceived, eventually born, and finally released in February of 2015.
As the movie mama, I was a mess the whole way through this process. Every time we got rejected from a film festival, telefilm completion financing program, got some negative feedback from a prospective distributor, sales person, or even just a random person on our IMDB… I just couldn’t take the rejection. It crushed me every time.
I felt like my limbs were being ripped from my body. My baby was being tortured, right in front of me. Such devastation! It was hard to keep going. I know it was hard on Alex too. We are both such sensitive artists, we took it so personally, and we took it out on each other too. All of our frustration with ourselves, the industry, the system, the world. Wonder why that relationship ended? Ha! No. You’re all pretty clear on that now, eh? 😉
Back to the Point
I normally don’t share publicly what I’m going through when I come up against these times of strife, because I don’t want the world to see that I’m a failure. I often see myself that way in these moments, but I want to hide it, and put on a brave face. I want to look good to everyone else, and so I hide my pain.
Most of the time I don’t even take the chance of being disappointed, I work on things in secret, or I work on other peoples projects to avoid working on my own… also you know, to get paid! I even went back to working in the soul-sucking advertising industry producing co-branded content for a couple of years from 2017-18. I gave up on my indie film and TV making dreams, yet again. I gave up on myself.
When I’m working in advertising, if a project doesn’t really work out so well, at least it’s not my baby, not a personal failure, not my circus, not my monkeys. But with my own projects it’s a completely different story. I don’t want to fail, I especially don’t want to fail publicly. I can’t imagine anything worse.
So when I’m sad, depressed and things are not going my way, I usually disappear. I hide under a rock somewhere, lick my wounds, and don’t come out until my bruises have healed, and I have hidden away all the pain again.
I quit working on all my creative projects, or better yet I don’t bother starting them at all. Because I will probably fail, and then people might find out that I‘m a fraud.
I’ve had this production company Flat Spider Media, since February 2015, and I still hadn’t started telling the world about it until now. Never made the website until last year. I bought the domain back in 2015, and then just let it sit there for four years, empty.
I didn’t want anyone to know that I had created it with the intention of creating my own content, because I was too scared to even start working on it. And that really didn’t work out so well for me. After five years, I still don’t have very much to show for it. I’ve just been freelancing, offering my production services to others, struggling working non-union jobs, and operating my business as a service company.
Even as a service company, I haven’t been as productive as I could have been, because I wasn’t selling myself. No web site, not FB page, no social media marketing, no word of mouth even. Not even a logo or some business cards made up. To this day I’ve still been using my Mr. Viral business cards at industry events. They just ran out… it’s time to move on.
When I went through a really difficult bout with depression a few years ago in 2016, a lot of people didn’t know that I was hurting as much as I was. Those who were closest to me who did, tried to help me, but found that they couldn’t, because I didn’t want their help. I just wanted to feel sorry for myself, and then go back to hiding. I didn’t want to be responsible for how my life ended up.
I made a few half-assed attempts at pitching my shows to other production companies, but I wasn’t really trying. I didn’t have everything together, and that was intentional. Because I knew they would say no. And if I wasn’t ready then they were saying no because I wasn’t ready, not because the content wasn’t good enough.
Well I did the same thing again this time with the Netflix-Banff initiative, I applied to them this fall, with a totally incomplete application. I was missing many of the required elements. I knew I was going to be rejected. However this time, I don’t feel so emotionally rejected by it. I think this is because I’m finally seeing through my own bull-shit. I’m finally “telling on myself”, and taking responsibility for the fact that if I want to be a writer, I need to be writing… every… single… day.
And my stuff is probably going to suck for a while! That’s just the truth, I don’t think anyone ever just wakes up a Shakespeare level writer, not even Shakespeare. He probably wrote a whole bunch of garbage, before he wrote all the plays that people know him for today. So I have to just keep writing my garbage ideas down, and sending them out to be rejected, until I start to get a little bit better, and a little bit better, every day.
I need to be willing to accept peoples constructive criticism, or not, but still thank them for it, and just move on. I need to keep moving forward. I have to stop giving up on myself and my dreams, every time someone tells me I’m not the one. I need to be the one for myself.
A friend of mine recently told me a story about how he ended up at a party for a company, and a bunch of really incredible people were there. He ended up meeting and talking with Margaret Atwood about writing. She told him her secret is, that she just writes stories that she herself is interested in. She writes books for herself and herself alone. And she says if she likes it, then perhaps someone else will too.
So that’s what I’ve gotta do.
I’ve gotta just keep writing the kinds of stories that I myself want to hear. That I feel are missing in the landscape of media content available. I have to tell stories that make me laugh, that make me cry, that make me feel angry enough to want to do something about it. Maybe someday the right person will stumble across it, and like it too. But, only if I keep writing it, and putting it out there for someone to find.