Finding the win in the midst of a loss

Nobody likes to lose. We all want to win, we want to lift our arms in victory and hold up the trophy. It seems almost everything in our culture is a competition. Everywhere you look someone is trying to dance off, sing off, cook off, or date off the competition. The winners are celebrated and the losers are shuffled off with their heads hanging. It is very risky to put ourselves out there and risk the pain and frustration that comes from not being number one.

But is there another way to look at it? Can we find a “win” in the middle of a loss? I just experienced this question last month. I became inspired to make a short film for the Disability Film Challenge. The Film Challenge is in its second year and was created to encourage writers, filmmakers and actors with disabilities to create their own films and to build awareness of professional artists with disabilities.

I knew I didn’t know how to make a short film, so I reached out to a couple of young filmmakers I knew and put together a great team. I found two other actors with disabilities and a couple of actors without disabilities for us to build a story around. My main goal was to create a story that featured disability but didn’t focus on it. Too many times we see stories about disability that put the disability in the center of the story, I wanted to see if I could create something that challenged that notion.

The “challenge” was to write, film and edit a three to five minute “Romantic Comedy” film that featured disability in some way – and to do it in 48 hours! We had a blind woman, a leg amputee, and a hand amputee representing disability on our team. We thought, what if a blind woman is in a love triangle with a guy missing a leg and a guy missing an arm? But their disabilities didn’t enter into her decision to date them; it was just part of the circumstances. We put in a couple of jokes about the disabilities but let the story be the main focus.

I was extremely proud of what we created. I was so proud, in fact, that I began to lose the focus of why I was doing the challenge. I became focused on winning. I started imagining my trip to Los Angeles to see the film and I practiced interviews where I talked about our process and my goals for the film. I might have been a little overconfident. When I received the email letting us know we didn’t win I was stunned. I hung my head. I felt ashamed, as though everything I set out to do didn’t matter.

I told the cast and crew that we didn’t win; most were bummed but thanked me for the experience. One friend said, “At least you did it!” Right! I had made winning so much more important than the process of making a film (which is not an easy thing to do).

How many times do we either not put ourselves out there because we are afraid of losing or hang our heads because we don’t get the results we think we deserve? Life is not a game that comes down to one moment that you win or lose. It is about getting out there, taking risks and competing. If you lose, look at what you learned; look at what you created in the process.

I learned that I could create a short film that didn’t make disability some heroic obstacle to overcome. I learned that we created material for actors to put onto a “demo reel” that looks good and may help them get work in the future. I learned that I could take what we created in 48 hours, go back to fix a few things, and submit to other film festivals. This one loss is not the end of this project or my passion.

Are you not putting yourself out there because you are afraid of losing? Have you lost and are having a hard time getting over it? Take a step back and look at why you are doing it and what you can learn in the process. See if you can find the win inside the loss!


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The Disability Film Challenge