It was all just a dream — but it seemed so real.
I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind today and my emotions go back and forth between euphoria and bitterness. It’s unlike any dream I remember having. I woke up believing it had really happened.
Even when I made my one short film more than 10 years ago, I didn’t care about the film festival experience. I knew it was good exposure — and I wanted my film to be accepted in more places than the 20 which screened it — but I was ambivalent about the experience of attending.
Some filmmakers dream of having their films accepted at Sundance or some of the other big name festivals. That had never been that big a deal to me — at least emotionally — until I dreamed last night that I was at Sundance — with my wife — for a screening of a film.
Everybody who makes a film wants to be accepted to Sundance, but very few make it. I’m told that fewer than 1 percent of submitted films are accepted, but most people apply anyway. It’s like buying a lottery ticket and hoping.
The colors were extremely vivid and beautiful in this dream, as though someone had ramped up the color saturation. Everything was bright and colorful. Everything was incredibly bright and beautiful. Like a fairy tale.
I don’t know what my film was. I just know it was a feature-length film. And I know I was married, because she was there with me.
There are two pieces of this that are incredibly emotional to me. One part was having my work recognized by such a festival, but just as important was the swelling pride I felt at being able to bring this woman with me. I remember standing there with her as we were about to enter the screening — and I was so happy that I had done something she could be proud of.
I don’t dream about her much anymore, but there she was in this dream. I remember the bright lights in the lobby hitting her golden hair and forming something that seemed almost like a colorful halo. I was proud of her — and I wanted her to be proud of me.
I didn’t like most of the people I met at real festivals when my film was being shown. I think I went to only five of the festivals that showed my short — because it was shown in Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the U.S. — but I mostly felt underwhelmed by the sort of people I met. (In fairness, I’m sure they were underwhelmed with me.) The experience just didn’t impress me as much as I’d hoped it would.
I attended the premiere of my short here in Birmingham — at the Sidewalk Film Festival — with a woman I was dating at the time. By the time of my last festival — in Washington, D.C. — I attended with another girlfriend. So I know what it feels like to take someone to such a festival — at least smaller fests — but what I felt in my dream was really different.
You know the cliched and dramatic scenes at the end of a certain sort of old-fashioned movie in which a hero is rewarded in a ceremony at the end — one of the early Star Wars movies ended with such a scene. That was the emotional feel of this dream. I didn’t care who else was there. I only cared that I had made art I was proud of — and I was just as happy about being with a woman I was proud to be with.
It felt like a coronation. A culmination of a fairy tale. A dream come true.
I woke up from this dream in my darkened bedroom and sat upright. For the longest of seconds, I believed it was true. I believed I had been there with a film. I dreamed she was my wife. I can’t explain how emotionally satisfying that was — as though it was the triumph I had always hoped for.
And then I realized it was just a dream. I was alone in a dark bedroom in the middle of the night. There was no movie. There was no Sundance acceptance. There was no wife.
The sudden realization that it was just a dream hurt my heart. Not figuratively. I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my chest. I couldn’t breathe for a moment. And then I cried.
I don’t remember how long it’s been since I last cried, but it’s been a long time. In my half-awake stupor, I didn’t even realize at first why I was crying. But as I became more fully conscious, I realized how much I had wanted what I’d seen.
As the day has gone along, my mind can still immerse itself in the feelings of that dream again. It’s faded some, but I can still go into the feelings and the imagery — like entering a pool of emotional perfection.
It’s like a painful addiction. I need the feelings in that dream — and I crave them — but I feel the same stab of pain — of bitter disappointment — when I have to come back to the world around me.
Which one is real? I’m not sure.
Why did my mind create this dream? Why did something in me make it more real than life itself? Why was she there? Was it a beautiful wish? Or was it more like punishment for something I can’t have?
Psychologists and others have argued about the meaning of dreams for a long time. Some people — including many ancient thinkers — believed they had meaning. Modern scientists haven’t been able to find better explanations, so they tend to see them as random noise created by our minds.
I don’t believe our dreams are random, at least not all of them. Certainly not this one. I can’t say what they are. I can’t say why our minds create them — or why they’re sent to us, if you believe they come from outside ourselves. I don’t even know whether I’m happy or bitter than I dreamed what I did last night.
Maybe the dream will come true. (Maybe.) Maybe it will turn out to be meaningless. Maybe it’s a subconscious prod to take more chances to make art. Or maybe it will just fade and I”ll forget the whole thing as the week goes along.
All I know is that this dream — the movie and the woman — were more real than life itself in those moments.
And I know I was finally happy. My heart was full and happy.