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The Lonely Road of the Independent Filmmaker - Insights from Festival Director Keith McDaniel

"Don’t expect people to be as excited about things and have the same passion that you have."

- Keith McDaniel, Director, Historian, Festival Director (Knoxville Film Festival)

As a filmmaker and historian, Keith McDaniel knows the long and often arduous path of bringing a film to life. There can be long days and even longer nights, but the hardest part can be dealing with the loneliness that you feel when those closest to you don't empathize and can't sympathize with your struggle.

The life of a filmmaker is about creating something that no one else has ever created before. It's about using moving pictures to educate and/or entertain while expressing one's own unique creative lens and skill. As a filmmaker, your passion for creative expression is the single most powerful driving force behind you. This force can be greater than the desire to make money, to assimilate into societal norms, and to walk the beaten path. This force acts contrary to the goals of most people around you who often seek stability over uncertainty, careers over passions, and the familiar over the unknown.

Without the benefit of a sympathetic ear or empathetic heart, you can feel alone even despite the naturally collaborative process that is filmmaking. After all, true loneliness isn't about not having someone by your side; it's about not having someone who's got your back.

Keith gives us some very important advice for dealing with this sense of loneliness as he advocates for acceptance. He simply invites us to accept that others won't feel the same way we do and to not place false expectations on those around us. With these simple words, he reminds us that the source of our loneliness may actually be an unfulfillable desire for support from those who cannot or will not provide it. By accepting this as our truth, we can seek fulfillment and support from those who understand and share our passions.

The bright side is that, though not everyone will share your passion, many will. In fact, there is an entire global community of filmmakers who share your love for filmmaking and understand the struggle in the process. This is the family that you can always turn to when things get tough. They have an endless amount of advice and lessons learned to call upon and, when you most need it, a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand to lift you up.

Filmmaking may feel lonely at times, but you can find solace in the fact that you are never. in fact, alone. Support will not always come from where you want it, but it's always there when you need it. Lean in to your filmmaking family when the going gets tough. Trust me, they'll always have your back.

As always,

Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.

We're here for you too.


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