Rejection Giant! (Encouragement for Creators)

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If you’ve faced rejection as a creator, then you’re part of a special club with a membership list that staggers the imagination, because every successful artist, writer, musician — and absolutely anyone else who’s ever tried to get somewhere in this life — has faced his or her share of rejection.

Here’s the story of how one man with a big vision overcame rejection and some incredible obstacles to create something that’s been  enjoyed by millions.

David Puttnam had been a producer in the film industry for not quite a decade, working mostly on documentaries or smaller movie productions. Sometime around 1980 he came across a true story that captured his imagination. The British producer thought it would make a good movie, but it would be one of those quiet little films: about the human spirit, about dreams, about overcoming prejudice and physical adversity.

Puttnam felt he could produce his little movie for under $6 million, and he started looking for a studio to back the film. Here he encountered the first of many obstacles he would need to overcome to get the project off the ground: All the major UK studios turned the project down! Puttnam says he reached a point where he was “thinking of pulling the plug. That, or remortgage the house.” Then, in 1981, the Egyptian shipping magnate Al Fayed agreed to put up half the money. Fayed joked to Putnam, “You’ve been fairly around the track before you get to Egyptian shipping lines.”

David Puttnam

Puttnam was on his way, or so he thought. All he needed now was an American studio to bankroll the rest of the film project. So the producer went out and hired Hugh Hudson to direct his movie. Hudson had never before directed a feature film, but he had been an ad man and had done a few documentaries; and he was excited about the new opportunity. Sound promising? Hang on. Hudson started his new job by casting a handful of virtually unknown actors for all the lead roles.

Meanwhile, Puttnam had been combing the U.S. for weeks, searching for a studio to back the rest of the film. Another stretch of hard road: “The American studios rejected it,” Hudson once stated. “Because the two main characters barely meet. There is no shoot-out at the end.” Puttnam added, “I remember sitting … in a hotel room almost weeping. It seemed impossible to get anybody to understand why this was a film worth investing in.” Finally, Twentieth-Century Fox stepped in with the rest of the money.

First-time feature film director Hudson then shot the movie in 10 weeks, and he managed to do it for only $5.5 million. Happy ending? Not yet. The producer Puttnam now faced an uphill slog to find a studio willing to distribute the movie. He remembers how the production head of one U.S. studio slipped out of a screening to go to the bathroom and never came back. “We never saw him again.” But Puttnam didn’t give up.

He did, however, finally reach a point of desperation. Seemingly out of options, Puttnam offered the film as a made-for-TV movie. Ironically, the head of a major network “turned it down flat. He didn’t want to buy it at any price.” But sometimes a closed door is a good thing: “We were saved from going to TV because they didn’t think it was good enough.” That’s when Warner Bros. offered to distribute the film theatrically.

Putnam’s little movie, directed by a newbie, starring a cast of unknowns, featuring the true story of two men who were all but forgotten, opened at a single venue in New York, the 700-seat Guild theater. Its first week, the film made $70,000. Compared to the box-office receipts of today’s big-budget movies, that may not sound like much, but remember, this was the take from a single theater! Soon critics were praising Puttnam’s tale of the 1924 Olympic Games, word of mouth from satisfied audiences spread like wildfire, and the movie went on to gross over $75 million worldwide. But the coolest thing, from an artist’s standpoint, is that Chariots of Fire was awarded 4 Oscars, including the Best Picture of the Year!

Facing a giant? Take courage!

So ask yourself, do you feel like an artistic “David” facing a Goliath of rejection? Pick up your creative slingshot and take aim, dear friends.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NASB)

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No Encouragers in the Camp?

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Everyone needs a little encouragement in life: a “You can do it!” cheer, or a “Way to go!” pat on the back. Dreamers, in particular, need to surround themselves with people who are willing to encourage them to pursue their dreams and achieve their goals. But not everyone is an exhorter, and for a variety of reasons, there will be people in your life who will find it difficult to be in your corner when you’re struggling to accomplish something great, or to share in your victories once you do.

A general lack of encouragement can make the road to success lonely and harder to travel, but one of the hardest things to bear is the lack of support among your closest friends and even family members! If you have that support then you are indeed blessed. Unfortunately many who dare to dream big may find there are no encouragers in their camp!

Give us a cheer. No, no, not a raspberry!

We’ve been greatly blessed to have friends and family who believe in us and what we’re trying to accomplish. In fact, our closest loved ones are also our biggest fans; and it’s hard to imagine tackling our goals without their support and encouragement. But not everyone is as fortunate. In fact, the people closest to you are often the last to believe in you and your abilities, to rally behind you, or to praise your achievements. And believe it or not, even Jesus Christ experienced some of this familial disbelief and disinterest when He walked the earth.

Once, while Jesus was working hard to fulfill His great dream of reconciling our lost and wayward world back to God the Heavenly Father, “…The crowds began to gather again. Soon He and His disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When His family heard what was happening, they tried to take Him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said.” (Mark 3:20-21 NLT) It’s easy to imagine that if Christ had allowed it, His family would have hurried Him home and done their best to convince Him to “give up this foolish dream!” Thank God — literally! — Jesus stayed the course all the way to the Cross and beyond.

When it concerns our friends and family members, it’s vitally important we understand the thoughts and motivations behind a general lack of encouragement, because…well…these are our loved ones, and their attitudes stem, innocently enough, from the most common traits of human nature. Yes, even your blood relations can harbor resentment from fear and jealousy: everyone has dreams, and it’s hard to watch someone else — sometimes even a family member — move forward when you seem to be stuck in neutral. No one wants to feel left behind.

But more often, friends and family lack conviction about our greatest goals and most daring dreams simply because they have trouble viewing us as the type of person able to accomplish great and daring things! No, they’re not necessarily diminishing our talents and abilities; but most people share a common misconception that extraordinary things can only be accomplished by extraordinary people, and few of us recognize our friends and family as being extraordinary!

The people we’ve known the longest are the ones with whom we’re most familiar: our dearest friends and family. And the “familiar” is never extra-ordinary — it’s what we’re used to; it’s ORDINARY. Jesus Christ was familiar to His family and the townspeople He grew up with. Hence, Jesus was viewed as commonplace, not the sort of  individual who writes history!

[When Jesus] returned to Nazareth, his hometown… He taught there in the synagogue, [and] everyone was amazed and said, “Where does He get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, His mother, and His brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All His sisters live right here among us. Where did He learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in Him. (Matthew 13:54-57 NLT)

The people closest to us are often the ones who see us as commonplace: we’re the familiar, the ordinary; but it’s often the most ordinary people who accomplish the most extraordinary things. For instance, as a young man, Thomas Edison was viewed by his instructors as VERY ordinary. They told his parents he’d never amount to much, but as an adult, Edison invented and patented hundreds of items, including the first viable lightbulb!

Feeling ordinary? Jesus said, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” (Mark 6:4 NLT) Just remember, you’re friends and family may not share in your dreams, but they still love you; and they usually don’t intend to rain on your parade. So pursue your dreams with confidence. Encourage yourself in theLord, as King David did, (1 Samuel 30:6) and accomplish EXTRAordinary things!

On the flip side, do you have a dreamer in the camp? Be an encouragement to that close friend or family member. They need your support!

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