Congratulations. You’ve just wrapped up your very first round of Hollywood meet-and-greets, sit-downs with production and broadcast executives all over town, and if there is one indisputable fact you can take away from the glorious experience it’s this: Everyone wants to work with you!
It’s true! They said as much in their unbridled enthusiasm for you, your work, and your pitch for that zombie legal series. They said it in their spirited suggestion that you would be perfect for some of the projects they have in development. They said it insofar as they actually said: “We want to work with you!” and maybe even: “We want to be in the [insert your full name here] business!”.
So, in all fairness, you can be forgiven for actually believing it – you poor, deluded fool.
You go home, excitedly debrief with your agent/manager/friend/cute barista who never gets your name right (but you read somewhere that they do it on purpose to engender social media buzz, so you don’t take offense), then lie awake that night considering your mountainous prospects. Damn, you’re going to be busy. You might want to consider rescheduling that trip to Sugarloaf.
Or maybe not because, in truth, you’re not going to be that much busier. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being significantly less busy and 10 being much, MUCH busier, you’re at about a “No idea because you misplaced your scale but you’re not that surprised because that’s the way your week’s been going.”
Oh, sure. You sent out those scripts, followed up with some emails, polite at first, then friendly and, eventually, lighthearted and humorous like a comedian’s Thursday afternoon shift at a palliative care unit. In some cases, you may grow despondent and ask your agent to follow up for you. This, more often than not, yields, not a response, but the addition of a whole other layer of unresponsiveness.
But in some instances, you DO receive a response. And, in case you were curious, these are their hidden meanings:
Unfortunately, we’re already developing something similar. (Translation: I can’t be bothered to read your script as my time is better spent attending meaningless meetings).
I kicked it upstairs. I’ll let you know when I hear anything. (Translation: I can’t be bothered to read your script, so I’m going to string things along in the hopes that you either give up and stop pursuing the matter or one of us dies).
I kicked it upstairs. Unfortunately, they passed. (Translation: They can’t be bothered to read your script either as their time is better spent attending meaningless meetings).
It’s not for us. (Translation: Your script was so poor and unintentionally hilarious that we held an impromptu read-thru in the lunch room. Our new temp, Hazel, played the part of the jaguar).
It’s too similar to [established series]. (Translation: It’s too similar to the show we have in development that is a carbon copy of [established series].)
No one’s buying anthologies. (Translation: No one’s buying anthologies).
But before you pack up your laptop, dog-eared copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay, and that stack of color-coded index cards on which you’ve assiduously tracked the emotional arcs of every one of your main characters, hold up. All hope is not lost, only a lot of your time and a small piece of your sanity, because this is just the reality of the business. People will tell you they want to work with you because they honestly DO want to work with you – eventually, should you prove successful down the line working with someone else first. No one wants to burn bridges. Rather, they simply wish to invite you to cross at a later date and then sneak away under cover of darkness so that, upon your return, you discover the toll booth unmanned. It’s not a no. It’s an enthusiastic YES – somewhere in the not too distant future.
Over time, and repeated visits, you will get to know these people, form relationships with them and, should fortune smile upon you, actually work with them. Maybe you’ll develop a show for them that won’t go anywhere, or come up with a take for an adaptation that will ultimately go to some other writer. The possibilities are truly endless. So don’t despair and don’t give up!
But do throw away those index cards with the detailed emotional arcs. Seriously.