Submit and Forget

It’s been over a month since my last blog and I apologize. Busy doesn’t cover it. Hopefully I will soon be able to talk publicly about this flurry of work I’ve done on three amazingly different projects, but I’ve learned my hard lessons about talking specifically about a project before it’s actually funded and cast and before cameras. Or announced in the trades, which one or more of these might be. Or not. This business is so strange.

The life of a screenwriter. Always on the edge. Always glancing beyond what’s on the page in front of them and wondering what will be next and where it will come from. Especially if you’re close to finishing something. That’s natural. What isn’t natural is subjecting yourself to endless angst when it comes to submitting your work to anyone... agents, managers, producers, contests, or online to any of the pay to get your script out there sites. As to the worthiness of these pay sites... that’s another blog.

This Blog is brought to you by the writers on screenwriting boards around the world who ask the never ending questions... “Once I’ve submitted something how long do I wait before following up? And can I call? If I submit something, do I wait to hear before submitting to someone else?” The list of this line of questioning goes on, but you get the gist...

After years of making the mistake of sitting by the phone or computer and worrying daily about every submitted script, I finally made the choice to Submit and Forget. It changed my life.

No more worrying about whether a producer likes or doesn’t like my script. No more waiting to hear what one person thinks before sending it to another. If I entered contests, which I don’t and in most cases can't, I wouldn’t be waiting for the results before I queried it to anyone.

No matter how many times you Email or call (don’t call) an agent or manager or producer or director about your script, it isn’t going to make them read it any faster or like it more or less when they do. Well, if you CALL (don’t) or email too much it might make them like it less because they won’t want to work with someone who doesn’t understand how all this works.

If they like it, no matter how long it takes them read it, you will hear from them. They WANT TO LIKE IT. They want great scripts and great innovative writers. If they see that in you, you will hear about it.

If they don’t like it they may never let you know, issuing you the dreaded “Silent Pass”. Not my personal favorite, but much preferable to the “We loved it, but it’s not for us, kill you with kindness” pass, which even with flowery kind words is still a flat out rejection.

Once I realized that there were only two answers and I can’t affect either of them, I felt... well... liberated. I no longer had to sit by the phone or check my email for a note from them all the time. Or email them myself. Or worry whether they liked it or not. Because, and this was the most stunning thing to finally realize,  what I think doesn’t matter to them.

The truth is, it can take six months sometimes for reads. It can take overnight. You never know. I once had a script optioned almost a year after submitting it to a producer because that’s how long it took for him to get to it. I’d forgotten I sent it to him. (BTW, It ever got made and I got the script back.) They aren't going to work on your timeline.

So if you get a read request, Submit and Forget. And keep trying to get that same script out. And write a new one. Or rewrite your old ones. Don’t wait around for answers. Chances are it’s NO anyway, since most of the time that’s the answer. You owe no one an exclusive. You owe yourself the freedom not to drive yourself crazy waiting.

I should have done this long before I did. When I was acting and auditioning a lot, I used to fret about every audition and wait and wait by the phone for the answer (again mostly NO, because all but one who audition hear NO.) And one day, before an audition I really wanted for a film I really wanted to be in for a director really I wanted to work with and for, I realized the chances of me actually getting the part were probably as close to zero as you can get. Again... Liberating. I thought, “If I’m not going to get it, I’m going to just go in there and have fun.” And I did. And I got the part. Revelation. So, the next 8 auditions I went on, I did the same thing... same mindset... I'm not going to get it so relax and have fun. I auditioned 9 times over that period and got 9 parts. My agent said at the time it was a record for her. When I audition now (rarely), I still do the same thing. Had my first audition in almost two years end of 2015 and went in to have fun. Got the part.

Took me longer to realize the same mindset could help relieve the stress of submitting a script. Chances are overwhelming it's going to be a NO, so I’ll send it and forget it. Much healthier.

Was it like my auditions and suddenly I got more Yeses? No. of course not. I have gotten my share of yeses these last few years, but only after years and years of mostly No. I still hear NO a lot more than yes. But NO don’t bother me nearly as much because I know how hard it is to get a yes. And how nothing I can do or say, beyond writing the best script I can, will make anyone do what I want them to.

The people you submit your scripts to are happily living their lives and aren’t worried about what you’re putting yourself through at all. At all. They not only don’t think about it, they actively don’t care and never will. The only one putting stress on you is you. Don’t do it. Don’t spend valuable time you can’t get back worrying about what you have ZERO control over.

Submit it and Forget it.


Follow me on Twitter @bobsnz

4 thoughts on “Submit and Forget

  1. Tony

    Thanks Bob. You affirmed my approach. I just send out the queries and don’t worry about it. I figure if they’re interested, they’ll contact me. So I don’t even bother with a follow up. Thanks for sharing and keeping the dream alive.

  2. Jody

    Totally agree with this. Same goes in the publishing world. I shrug off rejections. They’re expected. Your best bet is to just GET ON WITH IT. Write the next novel, script, poem, whatever. I’ve had a lot of success (a novel with HarperCollins that sold 100,000 copies, for example), but it simply doesn’t matter. Some things work out, some things don’t. Don’t fret. CHANGE is the operative word.

  3. Mark Gunnion

    Great post, Bob. Confirms my instincts. I know writers and other freelancers who painstakingly record every bit of information and fluctuation in the force about their every query, where I can tried to make progress via volume, volume, volume. Good as always to read your informed perspectives.

Comments are closed.