by Elias Gandy

Hen & Ham (Short 2021) - IMDb
Over the past few years, expectations of cinema have only grown, especially now that social media has allowed fans and others to broadcast their opinions (good and bad, right or wrong) on a massive scale. There is a lot of pressure put on filmmakers to create the best product possible, or their movie will never get watched, and their career is practically ruined before it ever begins. This expectation flows through to young filmmakers, and the expectations of student films has grown immensely as technology grows more readily available and everybody has access to the equipment necessary to make a good movie. Filmmaking has, and continues to change drastically. The pressure to stay ahead of the curve is considerable, and many young filmmakers fold under this pressure. In today’s environment, getting peoples attention has never been harder. How does a young filmmaker survive in this difficult environment? Simple. Most don’t.
In 2018, I wrote the short film “Hen & Ham”, my first personal short project. As more people became involved with the project, as the cast grew, crew grew, the expectations placed on the film (and on myself) grew as well. I began a KickStarter campaign, hoping to raise money for the increasing cost to produce the film. With the help of friends, family, and complete strangers, I was able to make enough money to get the project off the ground. But, now that people had invested, monetarily and with their time, the pressure started to mount. A film I had written more for myself during a time of struggle, was now a full fledged production. I worried if the script, my vision, and/or myself would let these people down. After all, they had really invested in my vision for the project. The pressure was on. 
As the film wrapped production in October 2020, the self-doubt got pretty bad. While editing, I constantly questioned the decisions I made on location. Was a scene too short, too long? Did I make the right casting choice? What about color grading/cinematography, was it a visually beautiful film? It got so bad, that by the time the premier rolled around in March, I was physically sick. I didn’t want to go to the premier, and I especially didn’t want to show this project to my supporters, cast, and crew. I was beyond worried I had let everyone’s expectations down. 
I still remember when the credits rolled, and there was a standing ovation for the film and everyone who worked on it. Pacing in the back of the auditorium, eyes closed, trying not to panic, I was shocked. People liked the film. People connected to the film. PEOPLE LIKED THE FILM! In that moment, a burden was taken off of me, one I had placed there based on my own expectations for the project. I saw “Hen & Ham” in a new light, and I became proud of what I had created. It was magical, and a truly indescribable feeling. And it continued to happen, showing after showing. People laughed, people cried. It was amazing. The “little” film I had written and directed was touching people across the country. But still, after festivals, awards, and praise from everyone who watched, I struggled with expectations.
It’s been a year since releasing the short to festivals, and I can just now watch the film without closing my eyes through it. It’s difficult because all I see are the flaws, the problems, everything wrong with every part of it. Sitting in the same auditorium as everyone else, I watch through gaps in my fingers while others experience the magic of the film. It wasn’t until a woman came up to me in tears, telling me how much she related to the film, that I finally let my expectations go. 
She told me, she felt like an outsider all her life, and that through the character of Hen, she had realized, even though difficult, that her life was going to be impactful in a positive way.
In that moment, I realized it wasn’t about my expectations. It was about letting the film be what it needed to be, to anyone and everyone that watched it. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but it touched people. It moved people. It showed people a part of themselves, a part of their lives they hadn’t seen clearly before. It comforted people. It made them laugh. It made them cry.
My expectations were never what mattered. It was about the people experiencing the film for themselves. 
Some people won’t like “Hen & Ham”. We’ve been rejected from more festivals then we have been included in. Some people might think it was boring, melodramatic, cliche. But honestly, their expectations don’t matter. The film was a success to me because of those happy tears in that woman’s eyes as she left the theater that night. That is why I made the film. Not so that it satisfies people’s wildly impossible expectations for a student film, but because it showed people they weren’t alone. And perhaps people’s expectations, opinions, critics, ratings, thumbs-ups, and shares don’t matter. Maybe filmmaking is, and should be about something more than that.
Elias Gandy
Go check out “Hen & Ham” on YouTube right now!