Monday, March 30, 2015
Meeting my fans
I had an experience I've never had yesterday. I met some fans.
Writers -- at least writers who work in general anonymity, like I do -- are not supposed to have fans. We toil away, day after day, and for the lucky ones of us, it's a labor of love. But we don't expect to be recognized other than an editor complimenting us on a well-written piece, the occasional comment on a blog post, or our parents telling us we did a good job.
But yesterday, at the ReelGood Film Festival here in Melbourne, some complete strangers told me they loved my work. I barely even knew I had "work."
And I have to say, it was a surprisingly discomfiting experience.
But let me back up a step to set the stage for you.
ReelGood.com is the website that has been sending me to free screenings (well, three so far) and publishing my reviews since last October. The guy who runs the site held a festival of short films yesterday here in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. I wasn't sure of the general stature of this website prior to this event, but having seen what he put together, and the fact that he may have attracted in the neighborhood of 150 people over the course of the day, I came away pretty impressed. This is more than just a guy with a website who's good at social media.
I had never met John, who runs the website, in person, so I was pleased when he recognized me as soon as I walked through the door. He did know my picture from Facebook and from a random snapshot of myself I submitted for a group year-end piece, but people often look different in person, so I was pleased that he immediately knew who I was.
What I didn't expect was when his brother found me after the end of the first session of shorts.
"Are you Derek Armstrong?" he asked.
Why yes. Yes I am.
I followed him over to meet two other women and another guy. It was unclear to what extent they knew who I was, but they also seemed impressed with me.
The guy's brother -- God love me, I can't remember his name -- told me that my writing was really good, but not in that forced delivery that's required when you realize the situation calls for someone's ego to be stroked. It was with a genuine sense of awe in his voice. He then proceed to describe me as the "star" of the site.
Not only did I blush, but I think I actually kind of shriveled up inside myself.
I thanked them for the compliment, and then proceeded to sort of hold court with them for the next 15 minutes, but in the most awkward way imaginable. They seemed to be hanging on my every word, even when what I was saying felt incredibly banal to me. The more I tried to fulfill what I perceived their expectations of me to be, the more banal I felt. However, they were the ones who seemed oddly nervous. Like, they were in the presence of greatness or something.
Eventually I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and the next session of shorts started. I didn't cross paths with any of them again.
While in a way, this seems like the realization of a dream -- to be held in high esteem for the thing you love to do -- I must say that I felt incredibly unnerved by the whole experience. I imagine that it's a very small version of what celebrities feel once they are recognized in a certain environment. Prior to that they may have been enjoying a sense of anonymity, but once someone has told them they love their work, now they are concious of being on display in some way. Now they are living up to somebody's expectations of them, rather than just existing.
To even compare myself to a celebrity is, of course, ludicrous. But in that one moment, I got a small dose of what it must feel like.
Removed from the actual moment, I feel a significant amount of pride in it. We all want to be acknowledged as good at what we do. For all the times you feel like a nobody, it's good to sometimes be recognized as Somebody.