How Should Screenwriters Cope With Rejection

Screenwriting is a highly competitive industry. With fewer studio films being produced, every screenwriter should be prepared for rejection. It’s easy to say, move on. It’s hard to hear a “no” when you’re passionate about your screenplay. It hurt because it matters.

Let’s look at the rejection process:

Remember that job interview? The one you hoped you wouldn’t get? Or the one you were certain would land you the job, but didn’t?  How devastated did you feel? You evaluated the elements that weren’t quite right and moved on. Perhaps you learned something? Maybe it wasn’t meant to be? Another time or another place things may have worked out differently. Whatever, the reason you didn’t win the job, it’s not a reflection on your abilities.

If you’re anything like me, you might surgically dissect every possibility, trying to work out why things went horribly wrong. Oftentimes, you will never now and you’ll learn to appreciate, even embrace, the certainty of uncertainty of life. How New Age of me?

In Hollywoodland, the dice are always stacked toward rejection. Like a casino, more people lose than win. There’s a lot of money, reputation and someone’s job at stake. There is no statistical rule that says that an executive must say “yes” after a certain number of  “nos”. It would be great if it was so we know when to approach them. Is there a self-help group for screenwriter’s rejection?

Sylvester Stallone once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

Here are a few tips on how to address rejection of your screenplay:

  • Every “no” that you receive is one step closer to a “yes”. More importantly, it’s one closer to aligning you with the right executive, producer, manager, and/or agent.
  • You’ve said “no” in the past. Think of a time when you rejected an opportunity that was presented to you – what was going through your mind? It’s not for me or not for me right now?
  • Be sure to put things into perspective. Avoid using “always” or “never” when you’re talking to yourself about your screenwriting career. For example, “Agents always reject me”/”I’ll never sell my project” is not helpful. Dispense with the victim mentality. Nobody likes a whiner.
  • Remember that each experience can be a lesson. Look hard. Dig deep. Did you pitch the right elements in the right way?
  • Don’t take rejection personally. It’s business.
  • Avoid phoning everyone you know to moan and prolong your suffering. After a while, people stop empathizing with you and start avoiding you. Don’t be that person.
  • Instead of self pity, indulge yourself in a self-esteem enhancement ritual… do something which makes you feel great. Decompress. Detox. Work on your next movie script.

Now that you’ve effectively dealt with your rejection in a mature fashion, you’ve emerged as a stronger, happier and more effective script writer.

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