A while ago I experienced rejection of my bachelor short film, which took three years to prepare in film school. We had started shooting when suddenly our teacher came to the set and said “You have to stop the work, and you need to stop shooting immediately. You must pack everything up and we will resume the work in a couple of weeks”. The first round of Covid had made its entry, but we were promised that we would be able to finish our work as we had put so much work into it over years. All of our studies lead up to this film, and we had spent a lot of time writing, casting and all other preparations you need to before you can start shooting a film. But some weeks later it was further delayed, as the pandemic as we now know did not pass in a matter of weeks. We did not hear anything for a long time and were looking forward to resuming our work.
But now, years later, it is still not clear if we can get access to the resources we need to finish the movie. I have tried to get finances and resources on my own, but this situation has impacted me in so many ways that I am no longer able to work on the project, and the whole situation has felt like a blow to my self-worth as an artist. Both since I can not finish the project, and because I can not find it in me to fund it myself. It has led to me deciding that I had to take a break from my creative and artistic pursuits.
Despite my ability to function in my day job and other responsibilities, I have been unable to create anything artistically or imaginatively. I tried to get back on track, but it seemed impossible. Instead, I found myself sinking deeper into a hole of depression that was tied solely to my work and self-worth as an artist.
It was difficult for me to talk about this with my doctor, small talk and questions about my profession were uncomfortable and reminded me of my perceived failure. As an artist, my identity and self-worth were strongly linked, and I felt like a failure in my professional life.
To try and regain some sense of control, I took on a full-time job at one of the libraries in Oslo where I had previously worked as a freelancer. The library is not only a place for books, but also a cultural hub where I could produce concerts with young people. However, after a few months, I began to question my ability to do this job. The rejection I felt in my artistic life had begun to affect my ability to do my other job, and I found it much more difficult than before.
In an attempt to salvage my self-worth as an artist, I am sharing my film project and how I am trying to cope with the rejection with anyone who would listen. I feared that the creative people around me would think that I had failed and that my career as an artist was over. I needed people to know that I was not done yet.
After over a year, I am still on creative and artistic sick leave by my own choice. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I need this time off. Although I no longer feel depressed, I am still sad that it has taken me so long to get to this point.
That scares me, is it really supposed to take this long? It’s just the last few months I’ve been able to admit to myself that that is what it is. Even if I don’t feel depressed anymore, I’m sad that this is still taking so much time for me to recover as an artist. It sometimes feels like I myself have rejected my ability to work as an artist.
Hedda Kirkhus (1993) is educated as a performance-artist at Falmouth University and has a bachelor as a director from NSKI Høyskole and frequently appears as a mascot for a medieval band in her duck costume.