Why I started the TriFilm Society

It was 2009.

A rather rough but monumental year in my life.

I quit my job to finish my first feature-length film. Going “all in” was terrifying and wonderful. But it left my bank account completely drained, and I faced the possibility that I might lose everything soon.

Standing at that precipice – on the brink of losing everything I’d worked so hard to build – nearly broke me.

It was a really tough time filled with self-doubt, depression, and weight gain. I became reclusive, hiding from the weight of it all crushing down on me. I was totally lost.

Yup. I was a hot mess.

There was one day in particular that just about did me in.

While editing my feature-length film on an ancient computer that was barely keeping up, I did some laundry. It helped keep the house clean but, let’s be honest, I was also way behind on the chores since I lived alone and poured all my energy into this film. While my movie rendered for the thousandth time, taking entirely too long, I found doing the laundry was a source of relief.

Doing laundry was simple. Straightforward. And it had immediate results. (Unlike the film that would eventually take five years to finish.)

When the buzzer went off, I walked to the dryer to take out a load of jeans. Instead of being too hot to handle, the jeans were sopping wet after nearly an hour.

It had finally kicked, that dryer, and I stood there completely dumbfounded.

Frustration and disdain for the dryer mounted. Every problem I felt with the film was suddenly represented by this stooopid dryer. The anger eventually turned into the most epic meltdown.

It started as a slight cry and gave way to overwhelming sobs. The kind that make your whole body give into the weeping. The kind you only see in movies, where the main character mourns the loss of a loved one and eventually seeks revenge for that person. Yeah, that kind of cry.

Here I was, 20-something and weeping on the floor of the laundry room like my life was ending. Most of my friends were out having a good time at that exact moment. Young professionals in their prime, working hard, and hanging after work without a care in the world. All while I sat in a crumpled mess on the floor, crying over this stupid load of wet jeans.

Then it hit me.

What was I DOING with my life?!

Was any of this worth this kind of meltdown? Why did I want this so badly? Was I really willing to give it all up to make these dreams come true? Where was the support I needed to badly?

There had to be a better way.

My wheels started turning. I began to see possibilities. I couldn’t be the only one doing this, right? (Not the wailing, but the working on movies outside the Hollywood system thing.)

As the revelations began hitting me, my tears slowed.

After a few minutes, I worked up the courage to slowly stand up.

I dried my tears, and literally dusted myself off.

I put the jeans outside to dry, and walked back inside to my old computer.

Then I made a few promises to myself:

  1. I would turn this struggle into something beautiful.
  2. No one else would suffer this way; not if I could help it.
  3. Every chance I get, I will pay it forward.

The frustration eventually faded away. The possibilities made me feel lighter and happier. The chance to make a difference for someone else gave me a boost in energy.

What was eventually born out of those moments?

The TriFilm Society.

Shortly afterward, I began organizing the first social using Twitter. I used the hashtag #TriFilm to bring everyone together. I invited the filmmakers I knew to meet for a drink, and made it open to the public so anyone else seeking support would be able to join us.

We had about 20 people come together that first night, and it was so good for my soul.

Since the first social was a hit, we did it again. Then next one was a hit. So we kept it up.

People began forming new trusted relationships. They found resources they didn’t know existed. They were smiling, shaking hands, and sharing their work. They found a safe place that felt like home, where people were kind and supportive.

They found paying jobs and new opportunities.

Photo of a social in 2014, in collaboration with Myriad Media. © 2014 Alex Boerner Photography | alexboerner.com
Photo of a social in 2014, held in collaboration with Myriad Media.
© 2014 Alex Boerner Photography | alexboerner.com

Every time we hosted an event, the crowds grew larger and larger.

People began reaching out to me, saying they were moving here from other places and wanted to connect. They wanted more and more good stuff, and I wanted to deliver.

But I could hardly keep up.

It became obvious that there was a need and we were uniquely suited to serve this growing group of talented people. TriFilm was evolving and taking on a life of its own.

But it wasn’t sustainable.

So we pivoted.

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We rebranded. We launched a website. We created a new blog. We started new social media channels.

We moved away from free events and began charging admission. We opened membership and welcomed filmmakers. We found office space to host more events, meetings, and blue sky conversations. We welcomed new collaborators and sponsors.

We made big plans.

Since this adventure started in 2009, so much has changed. It’s absolutely incredible. I’m so thrilled about what’s taking shape and where we’re heading.

And we’re just getting started.

If you’ve read this far and you want to be a part of the fun, I encourage you to check out our website: trifilmsociety.com.

We would love to welcome you into our growing community of supportive, optimistic filmmakers who are shaping the future of film in the Triangle. I feel so incredibly humbled, honored, and privileged to lead my fellow filmmakers as founder of the TriFilm Society. We’re doing such great things together.

I can’t wait to share more of it with you all.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

2 thoughts on “Why I started the TriFilm Society

  1. From what I have observed a lot of people in 2009 were going through hard times, including myself. Crying can be a good thing after it passes, just like you said good ideas usually come afterwards. Glad to know we are both fighting our way back to success by using the Twitter hashtag. I used to love filmmaking and working behind the scene as a prop master. I’m going to get more involved with your group. Look forward to meeting some of you, Daniel

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