10 Glorious Filmmaking Fails (and why they don’t Matter) : Mistake #1

Mat Sheldon, Filmmaker, Poplar Union, 10 Fails
Mat Sheldon, Filmmaker, Poplar Union, 10 Fails


This week we are excited to introduce our monthly guest blogger series: 10 Glorious Filmmaking Fails (and why they don’t Matter). Having successfully established a career in the film industry, we have invited guest blogger and filmmaker extraordinaire Mat Sheldon to offer some sage and humorous advice on the mistakes he has made on the journey there. Don’t worry, each tale will close with an uplifting moral of the story for the reader to take away!

Mistake #1


I was trying to impress a TV commercials producer (Deborah). Deborah had been kind enough to invite me to Soho House (which totally impressed me; Soho House represented a world that I did not look like I belonged to but very much wanted to be part of; I was shallow then) and then after a couple of meetings, invited me to an arthouse film festival.

She also felt the need to tell me that I needed more of an ‘edge’. I didn’t quite grasp what this meant, but feedback on my appearance was still queasily welcome.

“She also felt the need to tell me that I needed more of an ‘edge’”

Unfortunately, at the film festival, she asked me to look after her shopping – a Dolce & Gabbana top – mainly because she had her very big dog (breed unknown – but big) with her and couldn’t carry her shopping. Now, as far as I’m aware, most people don’t take their dog to the cinema.

It was shaping up to be a surreal evening…

Heightened, I think, by:

a) the row Deborah – who wasn’t used to people telling her ‘no’ – had with the Festival Director/Cinema Manager (or whichever poor soul it was who had the job of standing up to her) over her dog not being allowed into the auditorium.


b) the Dogme film ‘The King Is Alive’ by Kristian Levring that I hopelessly failed to understand… (but had to pretend that I did).

Anyway this isn’t about the dog.

Or the film.

It’s about the D&G top which I managed to lose, somehow, when leaving the cinema.

Terrified of her reaction and the potential cost I offered to replace it.

Icily, she declined.

And so I never heard from Deborah ever again.

And my gateway to the glamorous world of commercials (and Soho House) closed…

So why doesn’t this Matter?

I guess it’s something I’ve only figured out recently. Yes, people with connections, power, money or access can make things happen for you. But the cold hard truth – for me – is the only person who can be the catalyst for filmmaking is you.

This was best crystalised by ‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay who gave a really influential talk about the fundamental change she made which transformed her filmmaking life.

Her basic point was she used to expend an inordinate amount of energy trying to meet people, get them involved with her projects, asking for their help, trying to persuade them to read her scripts etc.

She says this energy displayed itself as desperation, and she “…wore that desperation like a coat. It was the first thing you saw when you met me.”

She goes on to make the killer point:

Desperation is a turn-off.

People don’t want to work with people who are desperate. And the energy they do have is squandered in chasing down relationships which won’t lead to anything.

Whether this is completely true for everyone, I don’t know. There are plenty of stories about how people got their start by never taking no for an answer.

But for me, I’m sticking with Ava…

…I still wonder what happened to that Dolce and Gabbana top though.