What Screenwriters Should Say When Rejected

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“When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal.” – Jack Nicholson

“No one wants your stuff” – William Goldman

“Everyone gets a lot of no’s. It’s almost always more no’s then yes’s.” – Vince Gilligan

If you’re a professional football player, you’re signing up  to get tackled. Even the kickers take a fair share of brutal shots.

If you’re a boxer, you’re signing up to get punched in the face.

If you’re a screenwriter, you’re signing up to get rejected. A LOT.

There is no avoiding it. Think of your favorite screenwriter. Be it David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Paddy Chayefsky, et al, they’ve all heard the most four-lettered of all four letter words: “PASS”

Let’s not mince words, rejection sucks. It is one of the great fears in life up there with spiders and public speaking. And rightfully so. If one thinks of their most painful moments in life, it’s reasonable to guess some of those are directly because of rejection. It reduces grown adults to tears, it wrecks self-esteem, it jades optimism and can often send one down a self-destructive path.

So it is no wonder that when some people turn away from the creative life, “fear of rejection” is often a primary reason. The idea of pouring your blood, sweat and tears into something artistic only to get a “meh” or a “PASS” from either the audience or the gatekeepers is not, on paper, the best way to spend one’s days.

Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to have some success and create some in-roads. I’m in the process of signing with some representation as we speak. But I’ve also dealt with A LOT of rejection. In fact, some actors have told me they think screenwriters deal with more rejection than they do. That’s a scary stat, though not an insurmountable one.

Because one thing I’ve learned is entertainment industry rejection is a lot different from real-life rejection.

When someone doesn’t want to go out with you, it sucks. And a lot of times, the terms are not negotiable. There may be no physical attraction, the philosophies don’t mesh, you just don’t enjoy each other’s company etc. The internet is filled with ads about “how to trick people into going out with you” and fortunately, I’ve never had to use those so I can’t verify their results.(For the record, I remain dubious of those claims.)

If you’re an aspiring screenwriter and are scared of being rejected, let me assure you it is not like “I don’t like you anymore” or “I’m breaking up with you.” It’s still painful to get a pass on your script but it’s really not the same thing. Scripts being passed on are not a personal judgment and shouldn’t be taken as such.

“Your script doesn’t fit our slate” is very very different from “I hate you, wish I never met you and never want to see you again.” There’s a ton of reasons why a company (production or management) will reject your work that have nothing to do with the quality of the script.

*They don’t have room on their slate for your project.

*It wouldn’t be a good fit for the leads they have deals with.

*They may think it’s too risky for them.

*They may not know how to market it.

*They may not be able to afford it.

And there’s one thing every Screenwriter should say to a PASS – “Thank You.”

Seriously. Say Thank You.

First of all, no one owes you a read. No one owes you a yes. No one is waiting to bow down to the brilliance of your script. Everyone you’re pitching to has read a pile of scripts taller than Andre The Giant. No one owes you anything so the fact that they are taking a few minutes or an email or a phone call to hear your idea is a big deal. You don’t have to grovel or go into penitent-man-will-pass mode. But say Thank You. I open and close all of my pitches with “Thank You for listening to my pitch.” Time is the most valuable thing anyone has and showing the proper respect for one’s time will never hurt and only show you’re a professional.

Even if you get a pass, say Thank You.

Not everyone has the good graces to call and say “Sorry, we’re passing.” Some folks will just leave you hanging because they’re scared of hurting your feelings. (***Note to those folks: I suggest giving the bad medicine. It hurts, sure but it also tells us to look elsewhere instead of holding onto false hope.) If someone tells you they’re passing but you then respond like a professional, you’re now not dealing with rejection – you may have just made a new connection.

Being defensive doesn’t help anyone, least of all the screenwriter. Everyone knows you’re mad or hurt or upset about the Pass. Let me repeat that – EVERYONE knows you’re mad or hurt or upset about the Pass. You don’t have to tell them, it’s no secret. By all means, complain loudly over some libation to friends and loved ones. This is why God invented bars. But getting into a fight or being a smart-ass to the person passing only gets them to cross your name off of their list. Being a professional and being cool about it can get you in their rolodex. Because again – EVERY single screenwriter gets passed on. It’s how they respond to that pass that matters.

If you’re confused about why you got a pass, go ahead and ask. They may answer, they may not but if you’re open-minded and are receptive to their reasons, then your reputation only goes up. Hollywood is BIG business but it’s a small town. Falling outs, bad attitudes and unprofessional behavior are remembered.

Even I get defensive replies from writers if I say that I don’t have time to read their scripts or am not available for a collaboration. And it’s stunning and quite frankly, shameful. My schedule has been so busy lately, I’ve been unable to record any interviews for a while. For people to treat that or the producers and gatekeepers their pitching to with attitude is just downright selfish and rude.

It’s a cliché but it’s true – you will probably be seeing these people again and again. Let’s say a producer passes on you and you’re so indignant about the insult of the pass, you tell them to fuck off. You make a fresh start elsewhere and build up your screenwriting career. Years later you end up pitching the head of let’s say Universal for a big, big money show. In walks that producer you told to fuck off. They pass on your pitch – AGAIN – and your “fuck off” has gotten you nothing. Seriously, save the bitching for the bar. Sleep it off and get back to grind after the coffee washes away the hangover.

It’s Not You, It’s Them: For real. Production companies and management firms are looking to make money in a hyper-competitive marketplace that is changing at warp speed. We know there’s more Star Wars movies coming. How kids born today will be watching them in five-six years is anyone’s guess. So we screenwriters have to remember that Producers and Agents are not waking up and saying “How can I make some screenwriting dreams come true?” They’re waking up trying to survive – just like we are.

You’re talking to people who are balancing multi-million projects and making high stakes decisions with their careers on the line. Understand that before you walk in the room. Your script may be a huge part of your life but in context, it is a smaller piece of a much, much large industry with probably a million other decisions to be made even if you’re lucky enough to get a yes.  They may look at your project and say “can’t make that work right now” but the more you pitch, the more they hear your voice, the more likely it is they will soon be making it work.

I’ve gotten tons of passes. I’ve gotten zero “don’t come back.” In fact, I’ve gotten many “Not for us at this time, but we’d love to hear future ideas.”

Industry rejection is not permanent: Let’s say a company passes on you but you do some rewrites, maybe find a manager or that same script wins a few laurels on the festival circuit. That company maybe very open-minded to revisiting your idea. They don’t know everything and they know they don’t know everything.

Production slates and management needs are constantly changing. Today’s “pass” could very well be tomorrow’s “Where have you been??” which leads us to…

Research Who You Pitch: This is a very important point because it’s something agents, managers and production companies say all the time. Many aspiring screenwriters think that casting as wide a net as possible is the best strategy with queries and cold calls. If you’ve written the most revolutionary horror movie in years, chances are the company producing 10 rom-coms a year isn’t going to buy – or even waste their time hearing the pitch.

Yes, there are exceptions to every rule and maybe your horror will be what turns “Rom-Com Productions” into the next Blumhouse. It’s still a smart strategy to focus your efforts onto the people who are representing and producing the material you like to write.

I’ve made this mistake myself. I got a read from a manager who I didn’t realize repped like 80% comedies so my gritty crime drama got a pass with a “needs a lot more jokes.” Oops. I’m much, much more careful now and learn from my mistake, you’ll save some aggravation by heading off some of these rejections at the pass.

Every Pitch/Rejection Is An Opportunity: I know that sounds real saccharin but it’s true. This past year alone I had two rough pitch sessions. The people passed but the questions they asked me pointed out some clarity problems in the pitch. I put my “well, fuck you” aside and used their questions to rework my pitch. As a result, I’ve heard “YES” several times since. So quite frankly, if I saw those folks again I’d happily shake their hands and say “Thank You.” Those rejections actually helped me out huge and on a purely pragmatic level.

Listen to how people are responding, what questions they’re asking and the notes they’re giving. There is no better window into what the other side of the desk is looking for.

We Already Have Something Like It: One of the best you can get. Sure, someone got there first, but it also shows your idea is relevant and you’re onto something. If someone is buying and idea like yours, then in this competitive market it’s likely someone else is looking to buy yours. This pass is a big, flashing sign that says “KEEP GOING.”

If They Do Hate It: If you believe in your story, with your heart of hearts and think it should be told to the world and then you pitch to someone who responds “That’s dogshit” well, smile, say thank you and move on. Don’t look back. They’re probably not going to like your voice or your stories so you need to find the people who will.

I don’t always love to hide behind the blanket of “subjectivity” but there IS a matter of tastes to this business. That said…

Your Script/Pitch May Actually Be Terrible: Here’s the one none of us want to deal with but until it gets made, the idea of your script not working at all must remain on the table. Screenwriting is a strange vocation because even when we’re “done” the script is still a launching pad for production and post-production. And the script will go through changes, sometimes HUGE changes, during those processes. Scripts are constantly fluid and subject to reworking.

If your scripts are really generating no reception, no reads, no buzz or heat, it’s a good idea to take as objective a look as possible at the material. Maybe it’s your pitch. Maybe it’s how your idea is being presented. Maybe it is in fact your script.

A circle of readers or being a part of a writer’s group might help you out with this. If you don’t have access to that, there are sites like The Black List and script consultants out there to give you notes and coverage to get your story where it needs to be. (VET any script consultants. Don’t just give some schmuck who’s written two unsold scripts $$$ for notes. I’ve won awards and wouldn’t even think of charging – even if I did have time to read a stranger’s scripts.

So yes, the possibility your story isn’t working has to be considered during this discussion. Sometimes it is you, not them. But the doors are not slammed to you. If your rewrites help and you get the story on track, the same people who said no before may become your new champions when it’s ready.

Being as objective as possible or having the perspective of a reader are vital tools to being any kind of writer. So you can’t always chalk up the “no’s” to “well, what do they know?” Hell, constantly trying to improve your writing is a part of the quest – yes or no. Sell 12 scripts last year? That’s great, you should still be trying to get better.

There is no avoiding rejection and “PASS” on the screenwriting journey. But if you arm and prepare yourself properly, you’ll be able to survive this minefield. How many and how much you can take is up to you. I suggest you take all the no’s on the chin and learn everything you can from them. Say Thank You and put that pen back to paper.

Because one yes will wipe all the no’s.

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Perspectives On Entertainment 2 from Ron Greenfield

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After months of interviewing others, I was very delighted and flattered to be interviewed by my friend and colleague, Ron Greenfield. Ron offered one of the most informative episodes of the Express thanks to his hands-on, in-the-room experience in many areas of the entertainment business.

Just released is Perspectives Of Entertainment 2 in which Ron interviews a great number of esteemed artists pursuing the creative life. It is a great thrill that he included me in such august company and I hope I was able to offer some valuable words.  This new collection is a must-read for those looking to break-in to show business or those who just fascinated by it because you’re hearing from folks who have truly “been there, done that” and are still doing it.

From the Press Release:

Ron Greenfield is a recognized authority on the Entertainment Industry who has just released his second book, “Perspectives on Entertainment 2, Pursuing Our Passion” on Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014GBQTIA and iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1033732329  It is an exploration into the creative process, conducted through a series of interviews, with extraordinarily talented individuals, providing an insider’s view into the highs, lows, triumphs and setbacks they have encountered in their respective careers in this industry.

Each person sheds light on their individual creative process which enables them to work and realize their creative ambitions under the illumination of the entertainment spotlight. The conversations vary in length, but get to the heart of the matter: their creative aspirations, ambitions, and the work they do. Each interview is an excursion, moving through the worlds of the Broadway Theater, dance, and nightclub performers to the complexities of game development, writing, pod-casting, acting, and preserving our film heritage.

“I’m the audience…There has to be something relatable to the audience…something that is unique.” – Neal Rubinstein, Broadway Producer

“I’m here to sing for you and to take you away because I’m an entertainer. I’m singing about something you can relate to.”   – Karen Wyman, Entertainer and Performer

“I always felt a bit more comfortable with costume design…I like working with actors, and I like the collaboration it involves.” – Jess Goldstein, Costume Designer

“…the bar is set very high these days, and so the people I represent and other publicists represent have to have something special to stand out above the crowd.”  – Lisa Wartur, CEO and Publicist, Noodlehead Productions

“You have to write, write, write, all the time. Write screenplays. Write treatments. Write notes… Help inspiration out with exploring this stuff actively.”Tim Davis, Screenwriter

“I trust my intuition more than anything. I usually go with my first initial reaction after reading a script where it comes to creating a character.” – Jeffrey Staab, Actor

“It’s the director’s vision of what he is really allowing you and focusing your eyes to see.” John Carpenter, Film Historian and Preservationist

Ron Greenfield is the CEO and creator of www.aspectsofentertainment.com , and an acknowledged expert on the entertainment industry. He writes extensively on subjects pertaining to the industry and creativity through his blogs, articles, videos, and featured interviews. For more information and/or interview booking, speaking engagements and television appearances, please contact him at: info@aspectsofentertainment.com

My interview with Ron Greenfield can be found here:

https://handsometimmydexpress.com/2014/10/14/aspects-of-entertainment-an-interview-with-ron-greenfield/

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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From The Broom To The Boom: An Interview With Chuck Slavin

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There’s a lot happening in the entertainment industry outside of Los Angeles and New York. One American city that’s become a hotbed of production over the past 10 plus years is beautiful Boston, MA. And one guy who’s been a part of that production explosion is Chuck Slavin. Transitioning from in front of the camera to behind it, Chuck has worked positions from Production Assistant to Driver to Production Coordinator to Assistant Director building his career in the industry.

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When not working on set, Chuck has also been a huge advocate and champion for the State tax credits that are keeping productions coming to Massachusetts. Combining enthusiasm and practicality, Chuck has become a master at networking in New England. This is a great listen on how to network but also a look at some do’s and don’ts when it comes to etiquette on set. Enjoy:

Chuck’s IMDB Page:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2336925/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Chuck on twitter:

https://twitter.com/thedotcom

Chuck on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chuck-Slavin/39937977095

As mentioned in the interview, here’s Chuck talking to then Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick about the tax credits:

https://youtu.be/iYzaUlvemUQ

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Once More, With Feeling: An Interview With Daphne Ashbrook

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Daphne Ashbrook is an actor who has probably appeared in your favorite show. With a resume in theatre, film and television shows ranging from “Knight Rider” to “Murder She Wrote” to “NCIS” to “The OC,” just to name a few, Daphne’s honed her craft into an incredibly successful career. She is a favorite among science fiction fans as well for being one of the few people to appear in both “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who.” In recent years, she’s branched beyond acting by releasing several albums “Grace Notes” “All Good Dreamers” and penning a memoir on acting “Dead Woman Laughing.” 

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Daphne’s latest adventure is writing, producing and starring in a new short film, “Once More, With Feeling.” Inspired by a true and frightening turn of events during a trip to Joshua Tree, “Once More, With Feeling” tackles intense issues such PTSD and suicide but with a humorous slant as well. As you’ll hear, Daphne’s indefatigable spirit is sending her on an artistic journey where she has to relive her fears. This is a great and inspiring listen which brings home the courage needed to bring your vision to life. Enjoy:

Once More, With Feeling IndieGogo fundraising site:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/once-more-with-feeling–2/x/3052639#/story

Once More, With Feeling FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/OnceMoreWithFeelingmovie?ref=hl

Once More, With Feeling website:

http://once-more-with-feeling.weebly.com/

Once More, With Feeling IMdb:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4813566/

Daphne Ashbrook’s website:

http://www.daphneashbrook.com

Daphne Ashbrook Official FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/reallydaphne?ref=hl

Matthew Jacobs’ “Doctor Who Am I” website:

http://www.doctorwhoami.com/

The Official “Doctor Who Am I” Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/doctorwhoami?ref=hl

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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The Accidental Caregiver: An Interview With Gregor Collins

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What happens when you discover a powerful emotional connection to someone three times your age? Gregor Collins tells us in his open and honest memoir “The Accidental Caregiver” which was turned into a stageplay that premiered in January 2015. In 2008, Gregor found himself employed as caregiver to famous Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann. What occurred from there was an unexpected journey which opened up Gregor’s mind and heart in ways he could not have predicted. 

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Gregor Collins is a writer, actor and producer based out of New York City. Like myself, he’s got an extensive career in the world of reality TV. The Accidental Caregiver and other works has propelled Gregor’s career in new directions that have made him realize that living the creative life means taking control of your own destiny. During this interview we talk about the emotional honesty needed to be an artist but also the courage to stop waiting and start doing. Enjoy:

You can buy The Accidental Caregiver here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Accidental-Caregiver-Legendary-Holocaust-ebook/dp/B0092GS96K

A trailer for the book is here:

https://youtu.be/JSCXfw7l9yQ

For more on the film Goodbye Promise:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye_Promise

Gregor Collins on IMDB:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1859942/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Gregor Collins on twitter:

twitter.com/gregorcollins

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Science, Archeology And Grace: An Interview With Simon Guerrier

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Trying to tackle the subject of real-life science in a fantasy series as varied and long-running as Doctor Who is no easy task. But Simon Guerrier and his colleague Dr. Marek Kukula have risen to the challenge. “The Scientific Secrets Of Doctor Who” blends new fiction while tracing the role of science in the show’s history. Sometimes the science in Doctor Who is dubious but sometimes there’s examples of brilliance accidentally come true by the wildest of ideas. And of course, science has served as inspiration to the show’s many writers.

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Simon Guerrier is multi-published author of Doctor Who fiction, writer and producer of Big Finish audio stories, notably the Bernice Summerfield adventures, contributes both fiction and non-fiction to many publications and has even made a few films with his brother Thomas. He and I have whiled many hours talking the wonderful world of Doctor Who. This interview explores the show’s history but also the nuts and bolts of putting together a project as ambitious as “The Scientific Secrets Of Doctor Who.” Enjoy:

The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who will be released June 4th:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Scientific-Secrets-Doctor-Who/dp/0062386964

Don’t take our word for it. The book is already getting great reviews:

http://www.cultbox.co.uk/reviews/books-a-cds/the-scientific-secrets-of-doctor-who-book-review

For more on Big Finish and their wide range of stories:

www.bigfinish.com

You can find Simon online here:

https://twitter.com/0tralala

Simon & Thomas’ movie can be found here:

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/cleaning-up-download-957

Simon’s Headshot by Lisa Bowerman:

http://lisabowerman.com/

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Making Lucha Underground: An Interview With Chavo Guerrero

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As a lifelong wrestling fan, I’m thrilled to welcome third generation pro wrestler Chavo Guerrero to the Express. In 2014, Chavo became involved in an innovative new program, Lucha Underground which combines Lucha Libre with Grindhouse Cinema. Made by Mark Burnett Productions, airing on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network and importing Luchadors from Mexico’s premiere Lucha League, AAA, Lucha Underground brings all those worlds together to make a hybrid wrestling show never seen before.

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Chavo Guerrero tells us he came to be involved in Lucha Underground not only as a wrestler but as a producer, helping to design wrestling matches for television. We also talk in-depth about why screenwriters should study the storytelling techniques of pro wrestling. And also, Chavo tells us how his wrestling career prepared him for his recent ventures in action films. A fun listen for wrestling fans & TV buffs alike. Enjoy: 

For more on Lucha Underground:

http://www.elreynetwork.com/originals/lucha

https://www.facebook.com/LuchaUnderground

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaVwpbqM8dkhQvbL8XileAA

For more on Chavo Guerrero:

https://twitter.com/mexwarrior

http://vivalarazashop.com/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0346144/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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