Screenwriting : How do you handle rejection? by Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

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Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

How do you handle rejection?

If you're going be a "pro screenwriter" get ready to go down some rabbit holes, hit brick walls, waste time and face a lot of polite passes.

1) How do you aim to handle rejection?

2) How you handle rejection when it happens?

My advice is try to learn from your mistakes and never wallow in it for more than a few hours.

Travis Knox

As a producer, I am responsible for lots of rejection sent to writers. But that rarely means they made a mistake. It just means that the particular piece of material I read wasn't right for me. It's a subjective job, reading scripts... and there are so many factors out of the writer's control that will weigh in whether or not I get excited about the material I read.

I too am faced with rejection all of the time. But if you believe in the project you push forward. I once had a spec that I loved but every buyer in town passed on. A couple of days after I sent it out, a studio exec on a project I was in pre-production on actually laughed at me for asking him to read it. For a brief moment I thought perhaps I'd made a mistake liking it, but I shrugged it off and moved on. 13 months later I was in production for a major studio on the script that they and every other studio had passed on. "It only takes one..."

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

Travis: Thanks for your thoughtful post. I have a great deal of respect for the producers I work with and the sweat equity they put into getting work in front of their contacts. For I know that they too feel the frustration of rejection. I've had one producer associate work on various things for several years who has put work into some pretty impressive folks

I still second guess myself frequently but that doesn't shake my unalterable confidence in my long term ability to succeed.

Good luck with your projects.

Doug Nelson

Rejection is just a natural part of the film business. I no longer accept or even read unrequested scripts. I reject most of the scripts I do read as unsuitable for me but I do often pass on worthy scripts to others. My rejection does not mean that there's anything wrong with the script - just that it's not right for me (at this time). I've submitted numerous scripts through various means only to have most rejected. I just take a deep breath and keep on keepin' on. I've had award /festival winning scripts rejected or not even read... It's just business - get over it.

Becky Fink

I usually wallow in self-pity for a couple hours, then try to get back on the horse the next day. Two years ago I entered a script in a few "big time" contests. One night I learned I didn't make it past the first round for one of them, and the very next morning I opened my email to find that the same script was a semi-finalist in another contest. You never know what's around the corner, so you just have to get back on the horse.... Even if it is easier said than done sometimes.

Aray Brown

with a lot of bourbon

John L & Jamie S

I handle it well. I aim to just move on and quickly. Doesn't always happen. I get it out in as healthy way a possible when I'm having a bad reaction to it. But, generally speaking, I end up framing it in context. A lot of idiots tell me no because of the context. Doesn't matter if they are idiots or not. In my head, for the moment, I weigh if I ever have to talk to them again and I have a movie moment where I play out what I'd like to say internally. Then I say thank you. And I move on. And when someone has a similar story about the same people, we laugh about it and we thank the stars that we are not said idiot, whoever they are, whether they are an idiot or not. Because, in my mind, for that movie moment, they are the greatest buffoon. It sounds nuts to type it out. But I think people wonder what the hell I'm up to because I'm always genuinely smiling. The dumber the reason they said no, the harder I smile. Some people bring out the big toothy grin one the plane ride home. Some people just get a chuckle.

Mike Heff

I just keep writing. If something I write gets rejected I just focus on the next project and strive to make that even better. Always improve.

Frankie Gaddo

Don't expect anything. This way if nothing happens your expectation is met and if anything better happens it's exceeded.

Kristy Ellington

Rejection of an idea is one thing (and yeah, it hurts), but it's the things we say to ourselves because of that rejection that becomes the real issue!

Pete Whiting

I can deal with rejection. The subjective contradicting advice and who to listen to is what I struggle with the most. When two different producers or coverage tells you completely different things - "make it lighter/make it darker", "more dialogue/less dialogue", "get straight to the plot/spend more time setting the story"

Rejection is part of life. And if you do anything creative you are always going to put yourself out there for rejection and criticism. You need to know how to cope and deal with rejection before you write a script - not after it. If you are given a reason for your rejection, then you need to unpack it and see if there is any truth or learning in it.

Kathaleen M. Brewer

I agree with Pete. I've gotten such conflicting advice and "contest ratings" that I am totally confused. I now believe is really does depend on the reader's feelings. The SAME script has been a finalist, a top ten finalist, an honorable mention and a big first place winner, while also being a quarter finalist, semi-finalist and never even making it at all. The responses from written pitches have been just as varied. Some say I need to explain what "special order" and "alpha-female means" while others want to know who I would casts in lead roles, while others say that is not my job. I have discovered when someone says the "tone" is not clearly defined, that means what other movies it is like. In reality it does seem a crap shoot. But if you just keep on playing, you are bound to have all the right ducks in the right row.

Dan Guardino

Rejection is just part of the business but just because they reject your screenplay doen't mean they are rejecting the screenwriter. I would always thank them and make sure I let them know when I finish my next screenplay. The first screenplay I sold was to a producer who passed on some of my previous screenplays. Same goes for the first assignment I got.

David E. Gates

What if you haven't made any mistakes and the people rejecting are just idiots? It happens. :-)

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

Folks, when I say mistakes, its just a general statement about the written or verbal pitching process that could be done better. For me, no matter where I'm at, screenwriting and pitching is about evolving and improving my process. If you're a writer who's process is perfect, I salute you.

As far as a reader's reaction to script content? That is largely subjective. However, a large percentage of spec scripts just suck.

Doug Nelson

David - just find a different flock of Turkeys to hang out with.

John L & Jamie S

Meh, maybe I shouldn't have used the word idiots. 99% of the answers to our stuff is no. Or "No Thank You" if we are lucky. But when a pitch goes out and gets a pretty decent whiff of interest from most parties or is presented well enough that it gets multiple read requests and you get the one guy that goes with "your pitch was incomprehensible" or something to that effect, you know you've found the royal douche bag in the group. He/She doesn't belong in the idiot pile. He gets his own special crown from the legendary kingdom of Moronia. That should be less than 1% of that 99% if you are doing it right. But we also frame those rejections, along with whatever picture google coughs up with that person's name on it and we throw darts at it at a little bar in the TMZ that's pretty close to most of the douche bag(s) after work hang outs. And once, and only once, we tampered with one of those "rich dude pick up young girls" apps that cost a lot of money and are ultimately "very exclusive". But we wouldn't do that again because douche bags rage a LOT. Us getting to see it once in person made us realize that even with our 99% no and no thank you, we have a better life than those dudes could ever imagine. We did a bunch of the pitches here. Like way more than usual. Every single pitch (to different projects and formats was a no. We got one meeting. Then we got into a meeting with one person from here via different means. We passed on the meeting once we realized they were involved. I would say less than 3% of the people we've encountered related to this process were true douche bags. The one "meeting request' from here never called back or followed up in any regard. We discovered that all of these 3% ppl have something in common. They're always late. To everything). And I can't really deal with the non-punctual. So I'll replace the word idiots in my screed with residents of Moronia and Non-Punctuals. (Sorry to the other non punctual out there)

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