I came across an article a few years ago that explored the phenomenon of “ghosting”. In a nutshell, ghosting refers to the act of abruptly breaking off a relationship and ceasing all communications, effectively banishing the other party to an intangible ghost-like existence. As I read the article, I was surprised – not by the ruthlessness or mindset devoid of empathy required to effectively carry out this relationship strategy, but the fact that it was considered, at the time, a shocking new low in anti-social social behavior. Ghosting? New? I remember scoffing. Hell, Hollywood invented that shit!
In show business, ghosting can involve varied players, from that enthusiastic executive who asks you to send him your pilot script to, say, a broadcaster for whom you’ve produced almost 300 hours of television. It can be annoying, frustrating, and altogether bewildering because, on the surface, you would think that your typical human of average intellect would see the pitfalls of adopting such an approach in a professional context. I don’t know. If I had applied for a job that I ultimately didn’t get, I’d have a lot more respect for someone who contacted me and let me know it wasn’t happening than someone who simply cut me off in the hopes that I would get the message. Eventually. But maybe that’s just me.
Or maybe I’m just smarting from a recent ghosting.
I’ve done a few “takes” over the past couple of months. A “take” is a writer’s vision for how he or she might adapt a pre-existing idea or piece of I.P. (ie. book, game, comic book). In a best case scenario, the writer is hired to develop a pitch package that can be presented to potential buyers. In a less ideal scenario, the writer is one of many who will be asked to offer up their take as part of a bake-off style set-up where the best pitch wins (You’ll usually know if it’s the former or the latter but sometimes wires get crossed and you go in assuming you’re the only horse in the race only to be informed, after the fact, that you weren’t and the production is moving ahead without you. But more on this unlikely outcome in a future rant.)
So, back in February, I was invited to offer up my take for a proposed television series based on an existing concept. From the get-go, I knew that I was one of several showrunners approached but I accepted the challenge because I loved the property and, more importantly, I had a fantastic take. And so, I got to work, researching online and then crafting a pitch that involved overviews of the first few episodes, character and story arcs for the first season, and a game plan for a full five year run. I reviewed my pitch until I knew it backwards and forwards, then hopped on the phone with a couple of executives (including my point-person at the company) and, over the course of an hour, delivered my take. Once I was done, they thanked me and informed me they would have a decision within the month.
Roughly five weeks later, I followed up with a quick email:
Hey (Point Person),
Joe Mallozzi here. Hope you’re well.
Just following up on the pitch, checking in to see whether you and your team had made any decisions yet.
Another week passed with no response to my query, so I followed up my follow-up:
Hi (Point Person),
Joseph Mallozzi here. I’m reaching out to find out if you had made a decision on the (project) front.
Still no response. Of course, I automatically assumed the worst, that some tragedy had befallen this executive, one that has rendered him incapable of responding to a simple email. Trapped beneath his kitchen refrigerator, surviving for weeks on only ice cubes and Frank’s Red Hot, his cellphone lying just out of reach, intermittently taunting him with the chime and flash of received emails while I, selfishly, obsessed over some t.v. show.
Since I didn’t know anyone else at the company who might be able to check up on him, I contacted my manager and asked him to look into it. The next day, my manager called to inform me that, thankfully, the executive was safe and sound – but that his team had decided to go with someone else’s take. Nevertheless, my manager reassured, the executive really wants to develop something with me in the near future.
As flattering as that is, I’m not exactly sure how the hell that’s supposed to work. I mean, collaborations tend to require at least a minimal amount of communication between the parties involved so what do we do in this case? Are we going to hire my manager as a part-time Discourse Broker? Invest in some kind of hive mind technology? Should I be brushing up on my ESP? Any suggestions? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Unless, of course, I’ve already muted you on twitter.