(Originally attributed to MsInTheBiz.com and adapted for the book “Movie Baking”)
The film industry media complex will reject you. Yes, it will. Ok, now that you know that, we can move forward with how to deal with it. I am not going to list self-care routines from which you can pick your favorite inspirational mantra. But, I will tell you how to start the process of letting rejection roll over you and propel you forward.
Rejection Reaction Guide
There is an unwritten rule that you should practice a 24-hour waiting period to react to rejection. You must go through the necessary steps of grief and whatever else you do to mourn. Re-read that email 10 times, tell 10 people the story, talk crap on the person/company, get out that self-care routine, whatever. But do not respond to the email, do not respond to anyone professionally while you mourn. Don’t make any decisions. Just be. Be.
Then, identify the type of rejection before you: Re-evaluate your goals, Re-strategize how to get there, Thank the messenger (classy), Act/move forward/do something about it.
Four Types of Rejection
1. Ghosting: Never hearing any answer ever again.
As an actor, you never hear back. That’s the way it is. No matter how good the audition went, you have to have a big deal agent-to-casting-director relationship to get an official rejection response. Even if you do hear back, it is a sugar-coated version or a polite re-focusing of the real reason it didn’t work. This is why you never tell your parents about an audition, they want to follow up, but a huge part of your job is to be able to never hear back in bliss. Let it go. Always. Immediately. It’s the only way to live a sane existence here.
What you can do is move on knowing that your next job is out there waiting for you to come get it. This rejection may not have been the job for you, you may never know why, and that’s ok. If it is not ok, this town is not going to be a good place for you. No matter how many times you re-email that you are ‘checking in ’with the network exec about your script, you may never hear back. Set your own deadline and ‘checking in ’quota and move on.
2. No Thank You: A polite rejection letter or call.
Polite seeming, but the most stern “no” there is in Hollywood. Another way to say it in industry terms is “we’re passing” on your various projects /auditions /whatever submitted. Once someone has expressed that they are passing on a script or project, don’t bring it up again. Don’t. Otherwise they’ll have to say it the rude way.
A polite, short, quick response is the best-case scenario. So, the best possible (and possibly only response warranted) is “Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration, have a great weekend.” I advocate for thanking the messenger as it signifies the finality of the correspondence as well as the messenger may be an assistant that ends up being a decision-maker down the road.
3. False Acceptance: Muddled positivity, perpetually rescheduling.
A cowardly rejection. The kind of rejection you only come to discover after a period of time when your own intuition slowly tells you that they will never pull the trigger. It looks like an investor may never write a check, it looks like that meeting may never happen, it looks like they want to talk more and will get back to you. It really looks like no one wants to tell you the truth. You are not valued or respected. Expecting you to discover your buried rejection at the cost of lost time, opportunities, or a clean break is rude. Don’t work with people who cannot say “no” when they never wanted to say “yes”.
They are liars and liars cause damage.
I hesitate advocating for you to cut ties yourself too quickly for fear of the very easy passive aggressive pitfall of not meaning it, or even worse, wanting them to know you know they did it this way. Try to avoid writing “It is obvious to me now that you don’t want to move forward,” “don’t string me along,” or “per my previous email…” -type emails. Tone matters. Always assume you will be forwarded to the entire team or read in a deposition one day. Try to stick with final statements of mutual respect and benefit-of-the-doubt, which is easier on a phone call or voicemail. I like, We‘ve decided to pivot our focus for this project, We‘re looking into other teams, if you’d still like to continue our talks, give me a call today, Or Thank you for your time, wanted to let you know that we are moving on. But, again, sometimes you don’t want to break ties for them. Sometimes you may want to continue without finality, some specific cases call for that strategy.
4. Closing the Door: “No” plus an honest obstacle, things can change.
I received a message today that one of my scripts wasn’t right for the major broadcast network for _____ (insert: specific reason). My script was rejected, but this was a door closing. And doors have hinges and knobs. If I play this right (with a mandatory 24-hour waiting period to react/write back), I may be able to open the door with either a new angle, a new pitch, reimagining, or even just opening the conversation on why _____ (insert: specific rejection reason) may not be the end-all be-all issue it looks like right now. With the right relationship and right attitude, you can knock and open the door again. Your metaphor may be an opened window, the next stair, or the next door in the hallway… whatever your favorite visual, just know that when you receive a real reason that something/someone is being rejected, the project is not dead. But it is all a matter of how to knock again. This takes time and nuance. I cannot give you advice here, I can only say that your 24- hour reflection period needs to be done before you strategize. See Rejection
Reaction Guide above.
5. Self: A secret number five?! Yes.
This is when you have rejected your own idea /project /abilities and never try in the first place. This is the most powerful debilitating rejection. It is often lifelong. It bleeds into other areas of your life. It swallows some people whole. It is a ravenous monster lurking inside for a foothold. It begins by feeding you the fear of all the other types of rejection. Fear and lies and self- hatred is where it thrives. Don’t commit this type of rejection anymore. It will kill you. Now that you know it is the worst fate possible, free yourself from this type of rejection and get into the game. The top four types of rejection above can only result in a flesh wound.