I did a Podcast last weekend for @FilmReverie with the lovely Mike and Brad, who were a joy to talk to. We mostly talked about my seeming career and my thoughts on writing. It was a lot of fun. I’ll link to it at the bottom of the Blog if you want to give it a listen. But during the hour or so we spoke, something we talked about got me thinking about why some great ideas hit and why some don’t. And most of the time, the randomness of it all.
There was also a post on DoneDealPro that spurred this. A writer who couldn’t understand why, given that everybody loved their pilot ideas and scripts, and even though they were getting in rooms and getting to pitch, they couldn’t sell or option any of them. There was more than an air of frustration in the post. They expected to do better. And as we all know, expectation is the mother of all frustration.
So, let’s get the a few things out of the way first before we get to the meat. In order to get turned down you had to make it a whole lot further that 90% of writers. And that took toil and sweat and damn hard work that paid off with the opportunity. I know that doesn’t help much when the answer is still no, but it means you’re seriously in the game.
And believe me, I understand the frustration. I’ve lived intimately with it, sometimes turned all the way up to 11. Every kind of writer frustration there is. And you know what? It ALL goes away the Moment someone says YES. It’s amazing how years of frustration can vanish when that happens. The problem lies in getting to that MOMENT.
The Moment. That instant where the word YES enters the head of a producer or actor or director or production company exec. The magic moment that can change your life. Or your bank account. The elusive Moment.
You can be spectacular in a room, have the greatest idea ever, a solid script, and you will still probably hear NO 99% of the time. It’s a numbers game. Hundreds of thousands of film and TV scripts in the system and only so many optioned and a lot less greenlit.
So you go into that room uber-prepared and give it your best shot. They’re smiling and asking the right questions... It’s all going like you imagined. And then you walk out empty handed.
What happened? Well... It boils down to what works for producers or network people at that Moment. If you're in there on the right day at the right time with the right idea for them at that exact Moment... you're gold. And you have zero control over it.
They don’t want you to fail. They want you to have an idea/script they love at that Moment. It’s true. But that damn numbers thing keeps rearing its ugly head. The people in the waiting area when you left? There to pitch their script or show. And the people arriving in the parking lot as you leave? There to pitch after them. And so on. The odds just by sheer numbers are against you. I was told over and over what an amazing fresh take my pilot was on the procedural genre. Never sold it. Never got close. Will I save it for down the road? Sure. And maybe somebody remembers it when they're looking for a procedural in 3 years. One can hope. But for now, deader than dead.
Experienced credited writers hear No most of the time. And like all serious writers, at first they look at all rejections as personal. Can't help it. I know I do until I shake myself out of it, which sometimes takes a while. But the good ones regroup and move on to try again to get to the Moment.
It always helps to realize that there are thousands of writers out there wishing they were where you are. Getting to pitch seriously. But you also need to realize you aren’t the only one they’re saying No to. I know I forget that when I'm feeling sorry for myself. You’re not alone.
Like I said, I thought for sure my procedural would be my in to series TV. It would at least be optioned by someone. Even production companies who I’d worked for and optioned to before said they liked it. But when the Moment came... well... it didn’t come. But that doesn’t mean you don’t put your head down and look for more ways in. Never giving up.
And then... I sold a pilot. One I hadn’t even written. How? By sheer good fortune. God. Right place. Right time. The moment. At lunch with a production company exec I'd worked with who'd just moved to a new company. At the end of the lunch she casually mentioned they'd just signed a deal with a BIG TV star. Household name big. And they already had a cable network on the hook for the show, based on his name alone and the agreed upon genre. Now they needed to come up with the series for him. They had a vague idea of what he wanted. By vague, I mean his 2 required elements. One kinda specific, a dog, and the other a general feeling of tone. That's it. Genre, a dog, and tone.
As the check for lunch came and we were getting ready to part, I asked her if I came up with an idea, could I pitch it? She said sure, they were out to other writers, but ok, send me a one page.
I went home and wrote one. I decided to go outside the box and do something a little weird because I knew other writers would be trying to stay in the box. They responded favorably and the dance started.
Over months and months of back and forth and some serious contract negotiations from my manager (Thank you, John), they bought the idea and I wrote the pilot, on a contract, for money. Now I wait to see what happens next. And like all projects at this point, there are a million reasons it fails right here, and hundreds of miracles that have to happen for it to move forward. The rug pulled out from under the Moment. I hope not, but man it’s nice to get this far.
Don't let the Nos get to you. Easy to say, hard to do. Write more scripts, more pilots. Keep pitching the ones you have. Get to that Moment. And remember, nothing happens when you want it to. Ever. You hear no, punch something, preferably soft, and move on. Move forward. I get the frustration. Believe me.
Quite a few of my friends who are writers have gotten to the Moment lately and it makes me really happy. It can happen. It does happen. But only if you don’t give up.
Here’s the link to the Podcast: http://filmreverie.com/podcast/film-reverie-take-50-bob-saenz/
Follow me on Twitter: @bobsnz