Today I am going to be dwelling on the famous Seth Godin quote:
The persons (or filmmakers) who fail the most, wins.
It might sound like an oxymoron – but it is true. Let me explain why failure is the best teacher and mentor that an independent filmmaker or screenwriter can have.
Before we get going, let me tell you about a filmmaker member of Raindance who had written a script and created a business plan for film finance. He then made a list of 10 film finance companies and sent off an expensively printed document. And didn’t hear a thing.
With Cannes approaching that year, he made a list of 100 film companies and sales agents to meet. He printed off another hundred glossy and expensive copies, went to Cannes and took nearly a hundred meetings. On returning home, he sent a hundred followup emails out with the glossy PDF – and again heard nothing.
With his personal finance running perilously low, and his confidence battered he announced he was giving up. I met and asked him to send me one of the 100 followup emails. And guess what! It had gone straight into my spam folder!
So what is the learning here? My dear friend didn’t reflect on why his packs and emails weren’t working. He took the lack of response as a signal that his film was crap and that he was crap and should never consider filmmaking. He put himself in the box that said ‘filmmakers who fail’.This is a catastrophic response, and one you too, dear reader, must be aware of.
How filmmakers who fail win
Let me tell you another story. This of another screenwriting student of mine to whom I had advised to write a short but sweet query letter. I call these short letters the 8 Line Letter. She needed a production company in the South West of America. She had spent hours researching active production companies and posted 38 letters to the appropriate prospects.
Months later I met her on the streets of Soho as she was chaining her bicycle to a lamp post. She told me that my 8 line letter approach was worthless because it didn’t work. She showed me a copy of her letter. It was now 9 lines long and very different from the one I had coached her on.
She said she would send out four letters and if there was no response, she would revise and send out another four. In the end she told me she only had 4 of the 38 interested in her script. I thought that was pretty good. But she was very discouraged.
The power of a mistake.
Making a mistake is painful. God knows. I’ve made countless mistakes. Some mistakes have caused me a bruised shin. Other mistakes have caused me financial pain. and other mistakes have put my personal credibility and branding on the line. But the point is, I have kept going with Raindance. And what I have learned by making mistakes is this: you need to confront your mistake and take ownership of the mistake.
“A mistake is evidence that you have tried.”
Filmmakers who fail reject rejection
If you send out ten letters and get one response but don’t review your approach you’ll still get the same response.from a hundred letters. You haven’t learned.
Successful filmmakers and screenwriters revise their material and their outreach time and time again. Hone and hone your scripts, your letters, your films. It’s how you will get better. And each mistake and each rejection will get you closer to the spinning wheel of success.
The Gallery of Rejection
No one likes getting rejection or let-down letters. especially when you have worked so hard. If you don’t get a rejection letter, my guess is you haven’t been trying.
At Raindance we get dozens of rejection letters. We actually frame them and put them on the wall! And we study what we sent that got the rejection letter and try and see where we went wrong.
As a tribute to your career path please send your rejection letter (or email) to us. We will immediately send you a Letter of Acceptance to the Raindance Gallery of Rejection.
Celebrate your rejections. They are proof that you are developing and moving closer to your goal.
The Failure Checklist
Filmmakers who fail to test their scripts and their films stay locked in failure. Even more importantly is how seldom filmmakers test their marketing materials.
Let me take you through a simple checklist that will show you how you can turn your creative failure into a success.
1.Are your emails going into junk?
- Have you checked that your attachments are small enough to send?
- Does your subject line contain spammy words?
- Are you 1000% sure you have the correct name and email?
2.Are you sending out query letters that aren’t being answered?
- Are your emails too long and wordy?
- Have you had a trusted friend review your email for clarity?
- Do your emails have an effective call to action?
- Do you have the right contact?
3. Are financiers rejecting you for funding
- Have you chosen the right financier for your project?
- Are you being realistic about the budget
- Have you demonstrated how you will de-risk your financier’s investment?
You can test your project’s financial prospects with the Raindance Self-Assessment Form
4.Are film festivals rejecting your film?
- Have you considered the genre of your film?
- Have you looked at the title of your film?
- Is your film the right length for the category your are submitting to?
5.Are distributors disinterested in buying your film
- Have you created strong marketing materials?
- Do you have a trailer?
- Do you have key artwork?
- Do you have a social media marketing plan
- Have you defined your audience?
6. Are you struggling financially?
Are you a worker or a creative entrepreneur? Workers are free lance employees.who get paid by the hour. Creative entrepreneurs create scripts, movies and books. The do this by combining craft and technique with entrepreneurial skills. If this is your route, remember to take appropriate risks – risks you can take and still stay in the game if you fail.
If you are still with me and have a spare 20 minutes, watch this inspiring interview with Seth Godin.