It's a story many creatives can relate to - one creative outlines the anguish that comes with the fight for funding and wonders the toll the Hunger Games approach takes on artists.
Tatiana Hotere is a playwright and performer - creating the award-winning Skin Hunger. She is also a Toipoto alum, and details her experience applying for the latest Creative New Zealand (CNZ) Arts Grants round.
Having received the rejection email from CNZ in the past certainly brings a feeling of dread when submitting a new application. No matter how much I believe in my project, or much work, effort and time I have dedicated to writing a new submission - crossing all the T’s and dotting all the i’s - the dread is always present.
So this time as I opened my laptop at 8:30AM to review my budget and word count for the hundredth time, my palms were clammy and I was aware of holding my breath as I steadied myself to be as precise and fast as I could, and submit my application as effectively and in as little time as possible.
At 8:55 AM, with my heart racing, I looked into the CNZ Arts Grants portal and remember thinking “This is some weird Hunger Games shit. It shouldn’t be like this.”
Making art in this country feels like swimming against the tide in an act of rebellion at the best of times.
But when applying for funding leaves you feeling like you are on a race competing against your peers, trying to scramble for funding, it makes me wonder if making art is rather an act of madness or stupidity.
Then, to make things a bit more chaotic, there were the logistics of it. So much information, so many boxes to tick, and a portal that is not built to have capacity to save your answers because apparently there were too many people on it at the same time.
After I copied and pasted my carefully edited answers, and uploaded all the supporting documents I could gather, it was time to hit submit. I did just that, and to my dismay the submit button wouldn’t load. After over 20 minutes there was I, still looking at the screen waiting for my application to be received through the portal, but all I could see was a never ending circle in the middle of my screen signalling that the submission wasn’t complete.
By then I had to give myself a pep talk to not go into panic mode, but instead restart the whole thing from the beginning in the hope that I could get a new submission through in time.
I’m relived to say that 53 minutes later, my second attempt was successful and my application was submitted just before midday.
The relief and joy I felt was mingled with guilt and concern for other creatives who perhaps like me may have had technical difficulties, or who may felt too lost and overwhelmed to continue the process.
So I whispered a little prayer for them and a little mantra of gratitude for myself.
The hardest thing is to come to terms with the reality that this system and this process, with its demands and limitations and restrictions is similar to the lottery - you gotta be in to win, but the winning odds seem to be “never in your favour”.
After a month of working long hours with no remuneration to prepare and get an application through, I now have to be realistic and get started on my plan B: figure out how do I take my play on tour without funding from CNZ. Because the possibility of once again receiving the dreaded rejection email is very real. Even with the extra funding and the increased cap on the application numbers.
Is it just me or does anyone else struggle with this reality?
I know I sound a bit salty and disillusioned, and that is because I am. Because getting funding to make art and to take art to communities and people who can truly benefit from it, shouldn’t be such a discouraging, emotionally exhausting and frustrating experience.
However, as an artist I cannot let go of hope, and in that hope I trust that CNZ is trying to do better and to make this process easier for artists.
So in the name of hope and in the name of art, to everyone who were brave enough, or mad enough, to put an application through, “May the odds be always in your favour!”