Reject: a : to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use <rejected the suggestion> <reject a manuscript>
The official Miriam Webster definition of Reject actually includes “reject a manuscript”. It’s part of the official definition of the word. Holy crap.
I actually laughed. But when you think about it, it makes all the sense in the world. Rejection is the one constant in any screenwriter’s life. It haunts us daily. Whether we’re dreading it or mourning it or anticipating it, it lives with us, taunting us.
Am I making it seem like more than it is? I don’t think so. Most non-writers wouldn’t understand how personal it feels when someone says, “We’re going to pass on your incredibly hard work that’s probably perfect for us but we don’t realize it.”
Well, they don’t actually ever say exactly that, but that’s what writers hear. And the thing about these rejections is that they’re not personal even though writers take them that way. Honest. It’s a titanic waste of energy to take them personally. And the sooner you get there the better.
When it comes to rejection, producers, agents, managers or production company execs really don’t care how hard you worked or how much you care, only that your script doesn’t work for them. They think about your script until they don’t have to anymore. Then it’s gone. You as a person are not even part of the thought process until they like it and want to talk to you about it.
A few days ago, there was an internet post by a young woman who talked emotionally about how she’d poured her heart and soul into her first script. How she’d struggled over every single perfect word. And right off the bat... a Producer wanted to read it.
To her, it was now a foregone conclusion that said Producer would buy and make her script. It was now down to a choice of dresses to wear on the red carpet.
Then the producer got back to her and said, “Pass”. Thus unleashing an onslaught of rage that can only be defined as:
a more emotional or forcible response than is justified.
Yep. And after the rage, she publically announced she was quitting being a screenwriter altogether. She was done. He unfairly squashed her dreams and kept the world from her amazing script. So she’s taking her ball and going home.
It was sad and unnecessary because REJECTION is what you should be ready for. It’s not something that you want, but it is part of screenwriting every day. Anticipate it, then be surprised when it’s not. That’s a lot easier than getting stomped on every time it happens.
I could start a list right now of all the wonderful successful scripts that spent years being rejected before someone took a chance on them. Including a couple of mine. But you’ve read all those stories time and again.
Screenwriting isn’t about anything but the LONG game. You need to bear the weight of each rejection. Learn from them, then slough them off. Letting them go. Moving on to the next read. The next submission. The next chance. Not easy. But better than going crazy.
I feel sorry for that young lady. But if that’s how she’s going to react to ONE rejection, she’s not ready for number 100. Or number 200.
Rejection is also realizing sometimes you need to move on to your next script. That the one you thought you had, wasn’t exactly what you thought you had. That’s just as hard to realize as anything. But you need to realize it and move to the next one. And the next one. And the next one.
I had 3 rejections last week. 3 Passes. Each one different. 3 different scripts. One was “Pass” with no explanation, which is fine, at least I heard. One was a no response at all after a reasonable amount of time (months), which is absolutely a Pass. One was a really really beautifully written Email that was very complimentary of the script and my writing, but guess what? It was just a really really beautifully written Pass.
I also got a script back that has been optioned and reoptioned for the last three years. The Producer, again, was very respectful as he told me, “We tried. Just couldn’t get it made.” Another rejection. I thanked him for believing in it, hoped we could work together on something else in the future, and went about doing a rewrite/polish on the script so I could get it back out there.
The funny thing is... my wife takes these rejections way more personally than I do, which I appreciate. She gets incensed. Then annoyed sometimes at me because I tell her it’s not personal.
The thing to keep in your mind all the time as you try and do this screenwriting thing is that all it takes is one person... one... who believes in your script to make it happen. To give you the success you’ve worked so hard for.
Those moments happen. I’ve been fortunate enough to have them happen to me. I’m thankful for them every day. I’m working hard so they happen again. But I also know there will be a lot of rejection before it does.
You want to do this? Live with rejection. Learn from it. Let it go. It does make life a lot easier.
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