Keeping it Reel

Film Majors: Bouncing Back from Failure

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

We’ve all heard a million different quotes that put a positive spin on failure, so we know that it’s an “opportunity to begin again.” But learning and growing from failure is easier said than done. Sure, these quotes are great little pieces of advice, but believing in them doesn’t make the pain of failure any less difficult to deal with. So where is the practical advice on failure?

Right here, my friend. Check out the tips below to learn how you can bounce back from failure and expand your fimmaking skills.


Internalize these quotes – wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. I know I just said that I was going to offer some advice that was a little more practical than these wise little tidbits, but in order to overcome failure, the first thing you need to do is internalize the philosophy these quotes employ. Most of positive quotes embrace a common ideal: Failure is an opportunity. To bounce back from failure, you need embrace this ideal; you need to see failure as a chance for growth.

You cannot be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, you need to learn to welcome them. As Thomas Edison humorously asserts above, a failure shows us a wrong way to do something, getting us closer to perfection. If you can view your failures and mistakes as lessons instead of setbacks, you will grow like crazy.

 

Give yourself time to feel, heal, and move on

So you failed. Maybe you didn’t get that acting role you wanted, maybe your short film didn’t receive an award at the festival you entered, maybe your project just isn’t as good as you were hoping it would be. Regardless of how you have failed, you are willing and able to identify this failure as an opportunity for growth. The problem? You’re still pretty freaking upset about it.

via GIPHY

When you read a quote on failure, it can often seem like the author thinks you should just be a bright little ray of sunshine after you fail, like you should be running around with rainbows spewing from your mouth. And while we should all aspire to show positivity in the face of failure, it can be incredibly hard to put on a smile after making a mistake.

So instead of jumping right into growth and positivity, give yourself some time to wallow. Yell, scream, cry, and punch your pillow. Vent to your friends, write in your journal, get your emotions out however you need to (preferably in a constructive way), and when you’re all out of energy, tell yourself that it is time to move on.

Protip: Give yourself a deadline. When I receive news that I haven’t gotten an acting role I auditioned for, I give myself the night. I say: “Tonight you will be upset about this; tonight you will be mad at the world. But tomorrow, you will reflect and become the best actor you can be.”

 

Make like a mirror and reflect

After you have appropriately disposed of your negative emotions, it is time to reflect. There are three steps to reflection that I commonly use.

1. It wasn’t all bad, was it?

The first thing I like to do when looking back on a failure is to find any bright spots. For example, let’s say you don’t receive the grade you are looking for on a 30-page screenplay you wrote for Screenwriting 2. Instead of dwelling on the grade and focusing on what you did wrong, take a look at what you did right. What positive feedback and comments were made about your screenplay? What did you do well? What about your work makes you proud?

Reflecting on the good will put you in the right mindset for tackling the not so good.

via GIPHY

2. What do you need to work on?

The key to growing from failure is to identifying how and where you failed and take steps to improve yourself. At this point, you should ask yourself what mistakes you made, how they could have been avoided, and how you can improve. It is often beneficial to go through your work yourself, have a few trusted friends review it, and ask any relevant mentors or professionals for advice or feedback.

For example, if you didn’t get a part you wanted or you weren’t hired for a specific job or internship position, you may also consider reaching out to your interviewers or auditioners and politely and professionally asking for advice. If done incorrectly this could be seen as unprofessional and resentful, so make sure you do this with extreme care.

3. What is your plan for improvement?

Whether you made a cut at the wrong time, left a comma out of a sentence, or went over budget on a project, you will want to put a plan into play to prevent similar mistakes in the future.

This is where most people go wrong, and this is why many people don’t end up growing from failure. It isn’t enough to just tell yourself that you will do better in the future. You need to identify how you are going to do better. What steps are you taking to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again?

 



Failure is never fun to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be an entirely negative experience. With every failure, you have the opportunity to become better at your craft; to grow and gain necessary experience as a filmmaker.

Fortunately, experiencing failure isn’t the only way you can learn and grow. In fact, we have a helpful resource you can use right now to discover more about yourself as a filmmaker. Click below to take our Film Emphases Quiz. By answering a few questions, you can find out which area of film study you’re suited for!

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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.