I left for Martha’s Vineyard trying to release myself of any expectation, other than being fully present in the experience and engaging with as many people as possible about my film, ALASKALAND. While I feel successful about the latter, i think I was only truly present during the second half of the festival.
Here I was staying in a house that was just yards away from the beach. Fresh seafood vendors, and homemade ice cream and donut shops lined the cobblestone pathways. One morning, I actually dipped my feet in the vast, clear blue ocean, the only sounds being the peaceful sway of trees and birds laughing with one another. Yes, my body was in paradise, but my mind was still teetering in unmanaged expectations of the festival.
The first day I was in Martha’s Vineyard, my mind was stuck in thoughts and hopes of having this festival be an experience that will, in some way, advance my film professionally. But advancement looked very narrow to me at that time. It wasn’t until the day of my screening, when I met two fabulous women, that I was jolted back into a presentness that had only briefly escaped me.
My conversation with these two women started with me trying to help them with their camera, and it blossomed into a weekend of laughter, conversations and, hopefully, a budding friendship. Yes, they were there to watch my film and we had great conversations about it, but I like to think that we connected on a more personable level as well. My interaction with these phenomenal women showed me the joy that comes from being present, as well as the true gift that film festivals can provide, no matter how big or small: human connection. Once I lessened the grasp of professional expectation, I was truly able to be myself and allow people to connect with me as a human being. There were people who wanted to see my film, solely because they connected with my personality, far beyond that of a filmmaker. This experience reminded me of why I love to teach: because I get to be grounded in a level of reality that can be forgotten amid the hustle of an artist.
Now, I am by no means being naive to the professional possibilities and opportunities that festivals can provide. But I do think that if we focus solely on that element we risk losing connection to a realness that can be quite revitalizing, and probably just as important (and maybe even more so) than the professional opportunity we might solely be seeking.
I am grateful for the opportunity I had to share my film with people, for the conversations and late-night chats I had with some of the most inspiring women I’ve met in a while, for the great films I watched, and for the ability to be present in this next leg of the ALASKALAND journey.
Check out even more pics from the event on the ALASKALAND facebook page. The film’s website (www.alaskalandmovie.com) will be updated with future screening dates in the near future.