We understand the importance of external recognition to help keep the creative slog going. Recognition of creative helps keep the fire in our bellies and trudge forward in an industry which often feels like it doesn’t care or straight up doesn’t like you.
Prior to my festival curation days, I was an advertising creative and while this industry is commercially driven, most of the creatives who work in it strive toward making something that adds to the wider pool of creative excellence. I could write an article on why most end-products don’t resemble this original vision, and how the advertising industry effectively contributes to cultural waste and litter, but let’s save that beef for another article.
Award shows in advertising play a big part in recognition, akin to the film industry. Often acknowledging the cultural zeitgeist, they (are supposed to) award quality poignant thinking and are often difficult to win. Dominated by huge network agencies, it’s hard for an under-represented creative to gain access to the sorts of briefs and budgets that would facilitate winning any of these awards in the first place. However, for many of us, recognition at an award show is still an essential facilitator of your future creative progression. No awards? No future. And much more than that, they are a simple reassurance that you aren’t totally insane; your work and ideas are appreciated by someone (anyone) and you’re not simply shouting into a vacuum or dumping your time and energy into a bottomless pit of nihilistic artistic oblivion.
A few years ago, I worked on a side project which I felt had some solid creative thinking behind it and may have been eligible for some recognition.Turns out, I was right. I polished the piece of work, submitted to my desired award show, and received a shortlist a few months later. Needless to say, I was thrilled. The piece of work now felt worthy of inclusion in a burgeoning portfolio of my other insecurities and had earned its place (even though it didn’t end up winning). And how did it earn its value? By having a valid online link in my portfolio to the award show in question of course, where the evidence of this shortlist was published, forever, for the world to see.
The years go by, the piece of work has nudged down the rankings in my book, replaced by younger siblings, a ‘fuck you’ to the work that came prior, but still retaining its place, dining out on the merits of its former glory (even just a little). Subsequently, I have trotted it out ininterviews, armed with a respectable link to show that I wasn’t just crazy, and that the bit of work was actually alright. But then something happened.
404, page not found. Wait, what? Where’s my link gone? Mid interview, this is an embarrassment – a few awkward pauses, stutters and excuses go by, and within minutes I left the interview feeling like a fraud. No evidence, your honour. That’s right, a few years later, the link to my shortlist, along with a few others had disappeared. Without mention or word from the award show that I paid to enter; gone. I checked again, no; I was correct. Just my shortlist had been removed. The winners, the other shortlists, all continue to enjoy their evidence – mine? Gone. To non-creatives, this may seem like a small detail. “Let it go, that was ages ago.” or “Move on” and “Haven’t you made better stuff since?” an expectation of moving on to bigger and better things. But ultimately, that is a story of history being re-written (and seemingly for no reason). I would hate to get fully conspiratorial and feel that my risqué submission had been removed to suit some emerging cultural narrative from an award show who are afraid to host brave creative work – that would be pure speculation and an awful thing for me to think. But in the same vein, I feel that this erasure of merit is a totally unacceptable way of treating creatives; an often-delicate bunch of souls who only ever feel as good as the last piece of work they made (and any recognition that came with it).
Thunderdance has been going for 6 years now (as of 2023), and in that time, we have awarded 75 films, made honourable a whole lot more and are now playing host to a selection of films that we just straight up like. Our commitment? It’s a simple one. We will find that missing link. If you have won, been featured, or received any credit from Thunderdance over the years, we will honour it, host it on our website and give you a permanent indelible piece of evidence that will remain online for as long as we exist. Link to us, from your portfolio, from your social or just through a friend via WhatsApp and you’ll be directed toward your piece of work, with its associated recognition. It’s the least we can do for the film creatives we serve. If nothing else, we understand that award shows are essentially a filing cabinet; your old personnel file or school record that cites all your past achievements, for better or worse, for your future critics. As many of you may have noticed, after resurrecting Thunderdance, we have made it our mission to restore the links for everything that has ever been featured by our award show in the past– and in that, if you feel you have been missed off, feel free to put us on trial and send us an email with your case.
After ignoring my frustrated email correspondence, I won’t be entering that award show again, they didn’t restore my missing link, so I will leave them to monkey around in the past, where they firmly belong. As Thunderdance moves forward, we will evolve into a beacon of award show decorum, keeping our promises and paying respect to the history of those who were essential in getting us there.