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What Film Fest Taught Me About Life, Work & Chasing My Dreams

Adrian Patenaude

It’s a little tradition of mine to have an existential crisis after my favorite weekend of the spring semester, so I decided to use my monthly Optimist column as an opportunity to process:

The Film Fest judges are on their way home after an incredible weekend, and as always, I’m left with my mind reeling and heart swelling with a grand mix of emotions. I’ve been involved with Film Fest for the past four years, so this weekend has been especially significant to me as I look back over my college career and look ahead to life after graduation. Each year, I’ve learned something new about filmmaking, but this year I started to realize that those lessons are applicable to life in general.

  1. Build a team. It’s impossible to make a film by myself. But why would I want to? Filmmaking is a beautiful collaboration. I can’t make a life by myself, either. Instead, I want to surround myself with exemplary people who will help me tell a more meaningful story.
  2. Ask for critique. And I shouldn’t learn to just receive it gracefully; I should seek it out. Screenwriters workshop their screenplays because it’s so much cheaper to fix things on paper rather than during post-production. It’s the same with life. If I take the initiative to grow now, I’ll be better off when the next stage of life comes my way.
  3. Be honest. Technical aspects of production will go obsolete, but storytelling always resonates. I never want to lose the ability to be vulnerable. I didn’t win an award at Film Fest this year, but several people said my story touched them personally. In the end, honesty is what creates the individual impact that really matters.
  4. Don’t play it safe. Now is the time to dream big. I want to take on projects that are beyond me. I want to watch films I love and try to make better ones. I want to set impossible goals, because then I’ll go farther than I ever imagined. Why would I waste my time on predictable achievements?

It’s that last point that really strikes me. Every year at Film Fest, I’m inspired to dream bigger. But it always scares me and I end up playing it safe. Now that I’m graduating, I find myself looking for a stable job in a safe environment. I choose the realistic path for fear that my dreams won’t come true. To quote Dreamer, one of the Film Fest entries, “Being a realist is always easier than being a dreamer.” Yes, it’s terrifying to dream and the possibility of failure is real...but what’s life if not a risk?


So I’ve decided to take some steps to pursue my dreams. I’m still planning on getting a job doing Ad/PR, because that is something that I’m passionate about as well (and it pays the bills!). But I’ve decided to move to a city that has an active film community so I can continue writing and producing short films as a way to break into the business. At this point, I’m considering Austin and Nashville as possible locations.

Onwards and upwards! I can’t wait to see what’s next. (^__^)v