I am scared and hopeful…
saraharlen | audience participation, community, crowdfunding, filmmaking, fundraising, personal, producing
Hello. My name is Sarah, and I am scared and hopeful.
Maybe you are scared, too. And hopefully, you are hopeful…
I’m a filmmaker who has just shot half of my first feature film and am raising money on Kickstarter right now to finish the movie. Raising money publicly (sooooooo publicly and yet not quite publicly enough press-wise, ironically) turns out to really push my fear buttons big time.
I don’t like asking for money. I just don’t like it. I knew that well before launching my crowdfunding campaign. But I do LOVE getting people to fall in love with what I’m working on, forging that awesome connection between entertaining art and the great people who enjoy it. So I’m trying to concentrate on the connection part, but the dollar signs keep haunting me. Pushing my buttons.
Maybe I should reveal something deeply personal about myself (on the internet, whyever not?) to explain why I’m scared (and also hopeful, but I’ll get to that in a second). The long and short of it is this: My parents divorced when I was two. Sometimes I had to live with my dad. My dad was manic-depressive (or bipolar, if you prefer that term). He was rough to live with as a kid, to put it very politely.
All throughout my childhood, I was told by child custody mediators that when I turned twelve, I would be the one to decide who I got to live with. So twelve became the magical birthday in my mind. I waited and plotted and got through hard situations because my twelfth birthday was my beacon. So, there I was, eleven-going-on-twelve, living with my dad as he did drugs and forgot to feed me and played his manic mind tricks. And I loved him and survived all that, but I was waiting. Waiting for my magic day.
And then I turned twelve. And nothing. Changed.
No one came to rescue me, even though they’d pretty much promised to. That moment was magical in a sense, because my survival mode kicked in and my newly-christened-twelve-year-old brain said to itself, “Ah. You are the one who will save yourself.” I took plastic shopping bags from the kitchen while Dad was asleep, packed up my adolescent keepsakes and carried them out to the driveway. At the crack of dawn, I called my mom and with the vocal authority of General Patton said, “This is Sarah. You have 20 minutes to pick me up.” My mom lived 30 minutes away. She got there, with my protective aunt in tow, in 20 minutes.
And I did not set foot in my dad’s house again until after he committed suicide when I was fourteen. I saw my dad again before he died, even shared some wonderful moments with him, but it was always on my terms after that. I had helped myself. But I had also resolved not to rely on anyone else to help me.
That story is not meant to be a pity party, by the way. I just figured some of you might be scared like I am sometimes.
These experiences built a very strong self-reliance muscle in me that served me well and probably saved my life, quite frankly. But then, that survival skill turned against me. Yes, it got me out of those bad situations by making me into a very hard worker who set high standards. And I’ve received help along the way. Oh yes, I’ve had tons of help. BUT, the thing I didn’t realize until lately, while launching Kickstarter, was that I’ve rarely ASKED for help, I’ve always APPLIED for it.
I’ve applied for a lot of help with money. I won amazing scholarships all throughout school, including a very generous one that made it possible for me to move to France and become a filmmaker (two life-long dreams, score!). But I didn’t ASK for it, I submitted an application (and am beyond grateful that my application was accepted). What’s the difference between asking and applying? Applications are a sort of safe space to me, submitted privately and accepted/rejected privately. Asking for something big, especially on a public platform involving other people’s hard-earned money, means the risk and the need is bigger somehow to me. Asking doesn’t come easy when your magic birthday wish wasn’t granted. It’s higher stakes. It reminds me of another childhood memory.
Once, when I was five or six, I was at the pool with my dad. There was a high dive at that pool that to my little kid sized-body seemed EPIC. One day, I climbed all the way to the top of the high dive, wanting to touch the sky, then shimmied out to the tip of the diving plank. And then, I looked down. My dad looked up at me from the pool below. He nodded at me to jump. But he had never taught be how to dive. I had never asked him to teach me. He just expected me, somehow, to do it.
When I started building my Kickstarter campaign, I nerded up and took classes, backed a ton of inspiring projects, did more research. Worked hard, set high standards. Plus, I did ask (yeah!) for advice from friends who have run campaigns.
But now, I’ve done all the research I can do, I’ve launched. And it’s time to ask. It’s time to ask for help. Big help.
When I was five, I turned around and climbed back down the ladder. Never jumped. This time, I’m on the high dive. Actually, I’ve already jumped. And I’m scared. And I’m hopeful…
I’m hopeful that some of you, the ones who this particular project touches, those of you who get it and feel it and fall in love with it and want to see it happen, will help me. I’m hopeful because I’m asking you for help, and I have faith that some of you will help, but also because I want you to ask me for help when you need it and I’m hopeful that by that time, I’ll truly understand the full extent of what it’s like to be scared, have hope and still ask for help.
You will be the ones who teach me how to dive.
SO, MY ASK: That you check out my Kickstarter campaign, and if you like it, please give some money to it and share it with your loved ones before it ends on March 17th. Phew. I did it!
Love, Sarah Arlen (Founder/Producer of Polyamorous Productions & the filmmaker making Twice)
PS Have you ever felt what I’m talking about, the fear and hope combo? If you’d like to share your experience, please tweet me at @saraharlen or Facebook me.
PPS I am planning on writing about The Art of Asking, an amazing book by Ms Amanda Palmer, very soon. So let me know if you’d like to hear more!