I thought I was a goner when I received the call from the Austin Film Festival telling me that my script “Teacher” had made the semi-finals. It was, I believe, the last day of notifications for this stage of the competition. Most of my friends had gotten their good or bad news, and so I’d started the self-consoling process of pre-reciting the inevitable, polite rejection email: “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read/watch/consider ___ for this year’s ___. With ___ number of submissions, this was the most competitive year…” you know the drill. We all do.
My skin vibrated with adrenaline. I was so fluent with “no” that a “yes” (or, to be fair, a strong maybe) filled me with an intoxicating double dose of excitement and, more importantly, relief.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve sought out videos, interviews, and (ahem) prestigious writing conferences where successful people talk about failure, and their wisdom for how to handle “no.” While inspiring, they were always an analgesic remedy for me, masking the symptoms (anxiety, insomnia, depression, self-doubt, questioning, anxiety), but never really fixing the ego driven, community seeking, life molding quest for “yes” that really puts the Latin root ‘pati’ (to suffer) into “passion.” Note: you shouldn’t do this. Be happy with your life, your friends, the small moments. That’s all true, and the more you can live by it, the better.
Needless to say, it is great to hear, every once in a while, that someone out there who is neither friend nor lover, mother nor therapist, actually thought your work was good. Worthy. Not eye-roll inducing, at the very least.
It was that phone call and the subsequent conference, where golly don’t you get to feel like a capital-w Writer for a few days, that gave me the confidence to think that maybe this script had a place in the larger world. Maybe, given that it could be shot on a low-ish budget, I should commit the next four years of my life to getting this highly personal, highly risky film made.
Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be four years of my life. I was expecting two, and in between that delusion and today, there were more ups and downs than a diary written in cursive.
Somehow, some way, through all that, the movie got made, with amazing people in front of and behind the camera, and it’s coming out for the world to see. A real life movie, the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself when I was twelve years old.
I got here because I didn’t give up. I memorized the rejections but never rejected my dream, and I waited for some place like Austin to say Maybe.
Now enough about me. Get on with you, you beautiful (no matter what happens) Somebody.
Teacher, starring David Dastmalchian & Kevin Pollak, will be screening at the Laemmle Glendale in Los Angeles August 2nd-8th, the Logan Theater in Chicago on August 3rd, and will be coming nationwide digitally and on DVD August 13th via Cinedigm. Octane Entertainment is representing the film for international sales. Matthew Helderman of Buffalo 8 & Zachary Kamen produced.