With a strange lack of ceremony, we actually have our fine cut. Done. Finished. No more edits. At most there might be another credit to add. But the film is COMPLETE.
It’s funny, but I was expecting with finished print in hand to have some sort of euphoric opening-of-the-skies-whith-confetti-falling moment. But it didn’t happen that way. We had fine cut ready, and that immediately led us to the next phase: promoting, marketing, and distributing. And what a whole other pile of headaches that is.
In all honesty, I think it will have more a sense of completion once we have our cast party. A date has been selected and we’ll have a private screening just for us, something to celebrate everyone’s work and commitment to the project. And it’ll be a big “Thank you” to those who’ve stood by us on this crazy adventure. It does get hard to believe that two years ago we started with just a simple idea that has materialized into an actual working film. And from some of our test screenings, a film that at least a few people seem to like. Yipee!
Already we’ve started submitting to film festivals, and setting up university screenings, and applying for conferences. It just doesn’t really stop. There is a change in feeling though, to have it done, instead of telling people, “yes, it’s almost there.” It really is here. We can watch it! We can make copies! We can sell it! We can say, “I made a film,” not “I’m making a film.” Finished.
That has brought up an interesting point of reflection. Throughout the many phases of this project I have at times felt that nagging fear in the back of my head, the one that prods me to check our time lines, to make sure the tasks are being completed, to call everyone and say, “hey, we need to get back at it…” That little nagging fear that it wouldn’t get finished. That we could put in all this work and it doesn’t actually get done. I could live with the idea that we make it and it doesn’t make a big splash, that maybe the only people who got something out of it were those of us who worked on it. But I couldn’t live with the idea that it wouldn’t get finished in the first place. Because I think I figured out that while some people are afraid of success, and others are afraid of failing, I’m basically afraid that I won’t finish.
On the plus side, that little nagging fear has led me to become very good at finding the projects I can and will finish. So I have a pretty high percentage of completed projects. But why would that fear resurface here? When I have a track record of seeing things through to the end, why would it come back now, strong enough to wake me up at night.
I think it comes back to two basic experiences: 1) this film has become my parrhesia, my expression of who I am and what I stand for. It is a big step out on a very small limb – I’ve no film experience, it’s not really part of my job, and the topic is unpopular. So to work hard on it and never finish would be like saying, “well, my voice wasn’t really that important to begin with.” And I already know what that experience feels like, so I wasn’t really interested in ending up back there. Point 2) fits with point 1 though, in that because this hasn’t been recognized as part of my job and because the topic is unpopular, I’ve encountered plenty of naysayers. Plenty of those who roll their eyes when I mention I’m working on it, those who’ve made sure it doesn’t get supported by my employer, those who belittle it behind my back. And I’m aware of all of that. So not finishing it would also be another nod to their constant message of “you could never do it anyway,” a message I seem to have had to fight for a good portion of my life.
I have had plenty of supporters, I should add. I’ve been lucky to have some very important people cross my path who were able to say, “you can do it.” And without them I probably would’ve given up on myself a long time ago, because as a small brown female, there are a great many more out there who try to tell you what your place is and how you can just forget about ever leaving it. Maybe Gottman was on to something, because it does seem like all it takes is one person letting you know how shitty they think you are to undermine the several who may say otherwise. Unfortunately I happen to live in an environment that has spent a great deal of time letting me know to what extent it thinks I don’t belong and shouldn’t have been allowed to come here in the first place. That gets really old really fast.
So what has kept me going…on this project really it has been the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing meant I could take all kinds of risks. It’s the benefit of not knowing the “rules.” I realized along the way that since the start of my professional life, I have actually learned something. I can still remember starting out thinking I’d never get to a place where I actually knew something, so it’s been surreal to realize I’ve got something to offer AND there are some out there who want it. Which leads to probably the biggest factor in completing the film – the people involved in it. Never could we have anticipated what would really come out of this experience. Our interviewees sticking around for the long haul because they were getting something out of the experience. Being able to get to know everyone in these wonderful ways you don’t normally get to know people as a professor, and realizing you can create that kind of relationship and space in the classroom. And in those biggest moments of doubt, having people from the film say the film was already a success, even before making a print, because they had learned things about themselves that they couldn’t have predicted and will stay with them forever.
Yeah, that’ll keep ya going. At least for a little while. And that’s also another reason why it must be finished – because I can’t let them down either. They need to know all their work, hardship, and vulnerability was worth something.
So cheers to you, my lovely friends: Jonnie, Vicki, Lance, Becca, Mandi, Bryan, Richard, Gaby. Emily, Shannon, Chris, Salwa. Even Michael and Adrien, whose small contributions made a world of difference. This film has been worth it just because I am better for having known all of you.