The Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival took place last week and they needed a small army of volunteers. When the plea went out for drivers to chauffeur filmmakers around town, I signed up. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got a mom limo and tons of chauffeur experience” (soccer, piano lessons, youth group, …).To be honest, while I wanted to help, I had an ulterior motive. I was curious. I’ve done a lot of research into the publishing industry, but knew nothing about the film industry. So, I had a pile of questions. Why film? How did they get started? How difficult is the industry to break into? Just to name a few.
I would have a few filmmakers locked in my car for a half hour each way—plenty of time to ask my questions. Cue the maniacal laughter. Mwahahaha!
I learned a lot over the weekend and found that authors like me, struggling to get noticed, and these up and coming filmmakers have a lot in common.
- Newer and cheaper technology has made it easier for anyone to get into the game, but has also made competition fierce. Filmmakers struggle to get their work in front of an audience.
- Like writers, these filmmakers work tirelessly to polish their product and then send it off, hoping it will get plucked out of the slush pile and make it into a festival. Getting into a festival is an honour, even if they don’t win any awards.
- I also learned more about the importance of the “N” word. That’s right. Networking. Shiver. Scary stuff, I thought. I was a keen observer, watching what these filmmakers did and how they did it. And it doesn’t seem so scary anymore.
The moment that probably impacted me the most was at the awards ceremony. The director of a runner-up winning documentary came to the front to receive his award and spoke about the years he spent making the film and how he dreamed of seeing it on the big screen in front of an audience. I understood that desire. I thought of how satisfying it must be to have the opportunity to share your blood, sweat, and tears with others and I imagined what it would be like for me—to have even a hundred people enjoying my years of toil. It would make it all worth it.
We all—writers, filmmakers, musicians—can feel lost in an endless slush pile, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. But, we take small steps. We persevere, taking much more rejection than acceptance, hoping one day we can share our art with an audience—to have others touched, entertained, or thrilled by our work.
◊ ◊ ◊
Melinda Friesen writes novels for young adults and middle grades, as well as short stories. She is a full-time mother of four and part-time student at the University of Winnipeg.