Written by Gwydhar Gebien
I was thinking about failure not too long ago. This is something that I do with a fair amount of regularity considering that I am an independent filmmaker during a recession. It occurred to me that failure should probably be on that list along with death and taxes as one of life’s inevitabilities. But if failure is inevitable, then why have I not embraced it? Why do I not fail with the same gung-ho commitment that I embrace success with?
Don’t answer that.
There are times when I wonder if I’ve failed enough to be a success. Edison invented how many lightbulbs before getting one that worked? “Harry Potter” was rejected from how many publishers? The Beatles had how many doors slammed in their faces? No one has ever told me “You’ll never work in this town again!” and sometimes deep down I wonder whether its because I’m not trying hard enough. Because no one makes a threat like that against mediocrity. Mediocrity inspires form letters and apathy.Â Then I remember that in order to fail with such you have to have courage, commitment, and a belief that you are doing the right thing. It sounds easy, but it’s not. The only way to get these things is to sacrifice something else for them.
For Example: Last year I was collaborating with a guy I’ll call Jeremy that I met through Craigslist. I’ve met a lot of good people through Craigslist and I thought Jeremy was one of them. We got along great except that Jeremy always had to be in control. When we tried to mount a joint project he insisted that I do everything His way. In a rare moment of creative integrity (this is that “Courage” I was talking about) I took a stand. Things went downhill from there.
Jeremy felt, I think, affronted that I didn’t agree with him about how the film should be presented and that I had made my disagreement generally known rather than just saying something to him directly. I took a few anxious, sleepless days to consider whether I had been wrong. I didn’t think that I was. (Belief that what you’re doing is right). It began as a creative dispute but by the end it was all about power. The longer I stood my ground (Commitment) the more Jeremy tried to exert his dominance. The project fell apart, obviously and regrettably. We parted ways and I found a new collaborator and a new project and Jeremy moved west and by all accounts, is doing well.
In retrospect I feel bad that it ended the way it did. There’s always a price to pay. Our project was sacrificed over our respective beliefs; my belief that my opinions were just as valid as his and his belief that he knew best. The price of the courage to stand my ground came at the expense of our comeraderie. Because I committed to my position I lost Jeremy’s good opinion of me. It is very difficult for me to know that someone has a poor opinion of me. For one thing, it is a very small world, and frankly we all need as much help as we can get. But on the other hand there comes a point where you can have someone else think poorly of you or you can think poorly of yourself. You can fail, or you can be a failure.
To fail is a very personal and selfish thing. Inevitably it occurs when you look inward and are forced to choose between what you believe in absolutely and what you want out of life. One of them always gets sacrificed and it always hurts. But you know you’ve failed successfully when you know that if you were given the chance to do it over again that you would do the same thing.