Understanding the Word "No"
We all encounter it throughout our careers, and either accept it and keep going or give into it and quit. Simply the fear of rejection is enough to stall, or even prevent a promising writing career.
I have submitted dozens of screenplays and TV scripts to potential producers, film companies and investors over the years. Enough of them hit home to provide me with a career, but they only represent a fraction of my submissions. The vast majority were rejected, and some quite callously.
It's never personal, of course. At least, that's what they tell us, and maybe they actually mean it, but for us, the writers, it's never not personal.
In virtually all of my rejected screenplay submissions, the response went something like this: My agent would call and say, "They liked the writing, but it's not what they're looking for."
That isn't exactly brutal. In fact, it's pretty diplomatic, which may be why so many of them used it.
"It isn't you, it's us."
First off, they always tell writers that they liked the writing. Maybe, they did, or maybe they didn't, but I've never not been given that note.
"It's not what they're looking for" holds a lot more water. Honestly, that is the most likely scenario.
Perhaps, they determined the budget to be too high and passed on it for economic reasons. Maybe, they're looking for a vehicle for a particular star, and my lead character didn't fit. Maybe, they already have something similar in the pipeline. It's also quite possible that it just isn't something they want to do.
Like every business, a production company sets goals for itself. They have a clear business plan, and it's easy to not fit into it.
The fact is, success relies on getting the right script in front of the right person at the right time. I'm asking them to pay me thousands of dollars to spend millions of dollars and a great deal of time and energy producing my screenplay. It demands a perfect storm of opportunity which is fragile and rare.
That's the good news. It really isn't personal. There are many reasons for rejecting a screenplay that have nothing to do with me. So, I reject the rejection and keep going. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.
And, why not? After all, they liked the writing.
"The Blue Collar Screenwriter and The Elements of Screenplay" is currently available at:
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A professional screenwriter for more than thirty years, Robert Gosnell has produced credits in feature films, network television, syndicated television, basic cable and pay cable, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of Canada.
Robert began his career writing situation comedy as a staff writer for the ABC series Baby Makes Five. As a freelance writer, he wrote episodes for Too Close for Comfort and the TBS comedies Safe at Home andRocky Road. In cable, he has scripted numerous projects for the Disney Channel, including Just Perfect, a Disney Channel movie featuring Jennie Garth. In 1998, he wrote the Showtime original movie, Escape from Wildcat Canyon, which starred Dennis Weaver and won the national "Parents Choice Award." Robert's feature credits include the Chuck Norris/Louis Gosset Jr. film Firewalker, an uncredited rewrite on the motion picture Number One With A Bullet starring Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, and the sale of his original screenplay Kick And Kick Back to Cannon Films. Robert was also selected as a judge for the 1990 Cable Ace Awards, in the Comedy Special category.
In 1990, Robert left Hollywood for Denver, where he became active in the local independent film community. His screenplay Tiger Street was produced by the Pagoda Group of Denver and premiered on Showtime Extreme in August of 2003. In 1999, Denver’s Inferno Films produced the action film Dragon and the Hawk from his script. In 2001, Robert co-wrote the screenplay for the independent feature Siren for Las Vegas company Stage Left Productions. His feature script Juncture was produced by Front Range Films in March of 2006.
Robert is a principal member of the Denver production company "Conspiracy Films." He is frequently an invited speaker for local writers organizations, served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in 2002, and in 2007 was chosen to participate as a panelist for the Aspen Film Festival Short Screenplay Contest. Robert regularly presents his screenwriting class "The Elements of Screenplay," along with advanced classes and workshops, in the Denver area.