Adventures of a Web Series Newbie – Chapter 54: Dear Hollywood Execs: Just Say No (A Writer’s Guide to 21st Century Rejection)

Adventures of a Web Series Newbie - Chapter 54: Navigating Hollywood 101 - Just Say No

Last week, a print issue of The Hollywood Reporter showed up in my mailbox. I didn’t subscribe, yet somehow got on the list. That’s right. For FREE!! The comedy gods are either smiling at or mocking me.

The first article I noticed really hit home.  It was about the nearly universal way Hollywood executives reject pitches (or you, for that matter).  Versus saying “no” or the old school standby, “Wow. This is great!  We really really love it.  Unfortunately, we’re not doing, uh, anything that involves writing this year”, instead, they just POOF! vanish into thin air.  That’s right.  You never hear from them.  Possibly ever again.  You know, kinda like, “He said (sob), he was going out for a pack of cigarettes and I NEVER HEARD FROM HIM AGAIN.”  Only worse, cause it’s your career.  Or, in some cases, “career”.

This applies to phone calls, emails, texts and, most notably, flinging yourself into someone’s office and begging (i.e. pitching.)

The article said that most execs don’t want to burn any bridges so their logic is, if I don’t reject you, I can always hire you sometime in the future (translation: after everyone else on planet earth realizes you’re bankable). They even interviewed a therapist, Philip Pierce, who said, “Saying no without saying no is an avoidance technique that ultimately results in increased negative emotions.”  Gee, ya THINK?!

Well, I’m a pro at being rejected.  I’ve been rejected so many times, I lost count a long time ago. But you know what?  I’ve also had quite a few successes.  Rejection is part of the gig.  Bottom line: in order to get to that yes, you have to go through a million no’s (you know, the word that can not be uttered).  And most people can handle it.  Most people don’t lose sleep over it.  At worst, it merits a couple of swigs of a good stiff drink (and, possibly, sobbing into a hanky).

It’s far far worse, and yeah, even a little humiliating to not get any response.  It makes something that shouldn’t be personal, well, a little personal.  Like you don’t even rate a quick email or call back…to tell you you suck.

I learned a long time ago to give people a couple of weeks. If I don’t hear anything by then, it’s time to move on cause that’s when the metaphorical expiration date happens. The one that says: Don’t call us.  We’ll call you.  And by “call” we mean “you’ll never hear from us again.”

If two weeks have gone by without a word, here are a few ways to cope with rejection that I’ve found helpful:

1) Go to the gym or workout. It’s a great way to release the sting. Even better if your gym has a punching bag. Knock it out of your system. Believe me, it feels good.

2) Do NOT discuss your script/pitch with friends/family. The last thing you need is a bunch of people who’ve had no experience pitching telling you you’re great (unless, of course, Steven Spielberg’s your dad). Do, however, call one or two people you know who’ve had experience pitching, preferably, successfully.  Ask them if you can take them out to lunch or for drinks (trust me, you’ll need em), run your pitch by them and ask if they have any critiques.  Do not ask them to read your script. But by getting just a pitch critique, you’ll probably learn something and can even apply it to the next pitch if you feel you’ve reached a wall with the particular project that’s been rejected.

3) Put the project away for a few months if you feel you’ve hit a wall. Then revisit it. You’d be surprised how re-reading something that’s been rejected fine tunes your critical eye when you have some distance. After tweaking, you can always regroup and pitch someplace else.

4) Always have at least three or four projects going simultaneously. It lessens the blow when one is rejected.

5) Know you’re not alone. Everybody’s been rejected. Here are a few links to rejection letters a number of well known writers and other really successful people received.  After reading some of these, you’ll know you’re in good company:  This, this and this.

And finally,
6) Don’t give up. Give yourself a day or two of “me” time, dust yourself off and come back at it. Remember: You gotta be in it to win it.

Oh, and Hollywood Execs, next time you feel like consciously uncalling, do the humane thing and Just Say No.

Got any rejection war stories or tips?  Put ’em in the comments.

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~ by chilltowntv on April 11, 2014.

3 Responses to “Adventures of a Web Series Newbie – Chapter 54: Dear Hollywood Execs: Just Say No (A Writer’s Guide to 21st Century Rejection)”

  1. great to read this. Are you currently working on your own web series?

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