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.

Joe

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.

Thanks,

Joe

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.

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arcticgoddess

I absolutely agree with you regarding the entertainment industry’s habbit of “ghosting”. I’ve tried to get a project or two off the ground only to have someone tell me, “we’ll get back to you”, then never hear from them again. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s also very rude.

mlrts

“Hurry up and wait” rears it’s ugly head again. I guess they are calling it ghosting now and it seems to be acceptable behavior in the sprawl of arts and entertainment industries. My favorite is the one where I consider myself ghosted, make other plans, and then suddenly the “ghoster” pops up and needs me to be available in the next 10 minutes, for the next 10 days…

Matthew Cottrell
Matthew Cottrell

I started following you once the Darm Matter movement started. (I’m still new at Twitter lol) *Disclaimer: I have never been in or know anything about the entertainment industry. *Second Disclaimer: Currently I do not work as I am a stay at home father and full time student. In my perspective, screw em. Please don’t take that as burn a bridge but maybe be leery of future communication from them about another project. The one thing I want to say is don’t stress it, but on the other hand I know how my mind just sits on stuff when I get worked up. (Especially the what if part of my brain) At the end of the day though, you’ve been in the business a while and you and only you know what to do and how to do it, or maybe some of your fellow writers, past/present co workers. Idk if my ramblings will help…

Edmond Dantes

Welcome to (the last couple of weeks of) my life.

baterista9 AKA gildermcc
baterista9 AKA gildermcc

Heck, Joe, what you call ghosting has been standard in job-hunting for DECADES. I encountered it many times, in both the public and private sectors, between the late ‘70s and the mid-2000s.

baterista9 AKA gildermcc
baterista9 AKA gildermcc

As for social ghosting, look to history. Before the 20th century, if someone moved away from your neighborhood, chances were good that you might never hear from them again, let alone meet them in person.

Danine Dolphin
Danine Dolphin

Yeah, I don’t see how working with them in the future is going to function if they can’t manage a basic response. They had no trouble answering your manager though. Amazing.

Ghosting is how people who don’t know how to professionally regect a bid or offer, who don’t want to burn a bridge directly, think they can get away without feeling the remorse. It’s weird. They’ll expect you to forget you were ever ghosted if they work with you in the future. It’s rude.

I recall a time when the entertainment world had zero problem saying no. You’re ugly, I don’t like you, you suck, get off my stage, don’t bother breathing, thanks but no thanks abd resounding NO. I guess culture has twisted again.

Let’s hope one of your tentacles is rewarded with a treat soon. Otherwise it’s time to work up another 15 proposals. /Sigh.

I wish you were on the other side of the table sometimes. So much cool stuff would get made.

candicegdw

I can go on and on about exactly this and the problems about society… rant, vent, etc. It only gets worse. Meanwhile, I’m thinking I’m the problem, but I’m really not… it’s the self-centered, superficial, narcissistic society taking over the world. Someone sent me a script and I replied with the hello, how are you, decent thing, followed by I’ll give it a read when I can but I’m really swamped with things. The guy replied that no one even asks how he is. He was stunned. This is another sad situation in society today. It’s exactly like when Fox Mulder says this is why he is looking for life elsewhere!

gforce

Great post, and I’ll say again that that BroadcastCompanyWhoCannotBeNamed‘s behaviour is so shockingly unprofessional that it boggles my mind that they get anything done at all.

When anyone ever tells me that “we’ll get back to you on that”, I always assume that’s a no. It’s the business equivalent of your parents’ response of “we’ll see” when you ask for a new puppy.

KathyC
KathyC

Ghosting is so rude. What’s wrong with people, that they can’t just take two minutes and say no thank you? Our society has become so anti-social with the popularity of social media. We are losing all sorts of character that my generation and generations before me possessed. With that being said, I need to make sure my college boys get a reminder of basic character traits.

On another note, I am happy to realize that you have not muted me on Twitter, since not that long ago you appreciated my Kraken bottle periscope. grin

OgreMkV

Heh, at my former company, I presented an idea. Did a fair bit of work on it as well. Then nothing. Called around. Nothing. Talked to my manager. Nothing.

About a month later one of the Ph.D.s was awarded something for their new idea… which was my idea. I quit soon after.

klb9037

I feel for you, Joe. I’ve been on both sides of the desk, although not in the entertainment industry. Regardless of whether your pitching a show or selling widgets, the same dynamics apply. It is difficult to tell people that they’ve lost, or my favorite, came in a, “very close second”. However, people who avoid that part of the job, or ghost, as the saying goes, have a major flaw in their armor. It might not be something real obvious, but lacking the stones in the honesty or decency department tends to spill over someplace else in their character.

The only scenario that’s worse is seeing your work with another person’s name on the byline! Are you protected at all in that type of situation? I would worry that in giving your pitch over the phone, there’s nothing written down. Hopefully this person is just weak and not a cheat.

I am sorry that this happened. I’m confident that you’ll own the next one!

maggiemayday

Dang, that’s rude.

That hive mind thing is overrated. Bzzzz.

cudaker
cudaker

Oh! I understand the mood now ;(
Well from an outsider view ..I would tell them ” I’m would be very happy to work with you in the futur (bla bla bla) ,but please contact my agent (xx) for any inquiries as I been experienced communications problems from me to you directly (,,) If your communication is fix now let me know I will glad to dicuss live with you .regards (bla bla bla)

glowyzoey
glowyzoey

Wow. How hard is it to just tell you what their decision is? There’s an epidemic of rudeness prevalent in the world these days. I see it all the time.

Let’s all just concentrate and give Karma an assist in sorting this out for better or worse, on both sides. wink

Ponytail
Ponytail

I don’t think you’ve muted me on twitter. Have you? Hello…? Hello…? Hellooooo………?

But sometimes I wonder if you did something to my email. Like I just got a certificate rejection and could not pull up email. ….oh wait, its back now. You’re just trying to drive me crazy, aren’t you?

baterista9 AKA gildermcc
baterista9 AKA gildermcc

If it’s any consolation, Ponytail, AOL seemed to have widespread issues with security certificates this past week.

IggyMing
IggyMing

I’m sorry that you had to experience that. I agree with Baterista9 that this a common response when job hunting, though. I am usually impressed when potential employers make the effort to let people know when they’ve been rejected, as this is not the norm. However, you are right that even a simple reply is the courteous thing to do.

I wanted to thank Andrew Moodie for his delightful Q&A. Since he mentioned it, I can give you my contact details if he’s ever in the area. I’ll do this in a separate comment.

commorancy

This “ghosting” problem isn’t limited to the entertainment industry. It also exists when simply trying to find any type of employment. You can have what you think is a great interview, then never hear back from anyone. I’ve gone into interviews via recruiters and then, silence. My personal rule is to attempt one communication after silence. Following that one reach out attempt, I simply take further silence to mean disinterest and I move on. I assume that if they’re really interested in what I have to offer, they’ll contact me on their own. If not, no problem. I’m just not going to wait on them to respond.

Of course, there’s less invested in a standard interview process. For you as a show runner, you’ve invested a whole lot more time into the process such as research, crafting ideas and pitching them. Under that circumstance, it would be a bit more of a let down, but not hearing back at all is never a good thing.

If someone is not interested in what I have to offer, they can at least be courteous enough to tell me there is no interest. I’ll be bummed about it, yes, but at least there’s closure. It seems that common courtesy has become a thing of the past.

Shaneac1
Shaneac1

I was raised to do onto others that you would want do onto you in other word treat people the way you would want to be treated and as a matter of haapenstance I also like to call people out in the B/S regardless if I would affend them in most cases people actually respect people who call them out. Unless they are a total douch.

Tammy Dixon
Tammy Dixon

I can hear your frustration from down here. Sorry! It is very annoying habit not replying. Especially, when you see this person constantly answering text/calls when you’re with them and not giving their full attention.

Don’t let this stop you from enjoying your weekend! We’ll be your therapist. Tell us all your problems and rant away. Friendly audience here!

whoviantrish
whoviantrish

While many instances of ghosting (like what happened to you) are rude and uncalled for, sometimes it’s completely necessary. There are some very toxic and crazy people out there. They can’t be reasoned with and only create drama. Yes I’ve ghosted a few people. Sometimes when someone is so toxic and refuses take responsibility for bad behavior you just need to walk away.

In your case though I’m not sure how you can work with people who won’t even give you the courtesy of a “thanks but no thanks” email. You’re extremely professional and definitely deserve a response.

FargateOne
FargateOne

Wow! Je compatis avec vous!

Duptiang
Duptiang

Sorry, I tried to participate but I was on my phone and the comment I typed seems not to have made its way to your comments. I have written a few letters and not received a curtesy of a post card reply. I did include a picture of my condition as a point of explanation not as a issue of controversy so I thought I included such. However that is different in that they asked for your input. Is that not why there are office assists? Well perhaps a sign of the times and the use of first names.

jorie74

I understand, sounds like some things which I could vent about on here (such as a certain paycheque for several pieces of writing I did a couple of months ago, still no pay, grr) but I am not letting that get to me too much….at least, trying not to let it get to me too much, lol… Too many damned bills need it!!!

PBMom

I think that is what the entire world has become. That is what happened with the local Fox news segments I was a part of with a group of other women. We left thinking we really hit it out of the ball park for the election day coverage and felt like we proved to them that we needed more than a 3-minute spot, only to never get a call again. I inquired with my contact several times and no reply. By the time the first of the year came around, it was obvious they weren’t doing it anymore. I thought it was rude. But then a month or two later, I got called wondering if I wanted to blog for Fox with this program they were starting called Fox VIP. I would be the Houston representative. There was no pay but they sent cool promotional materials and I was in. I even got a trip to Los Angeles to see one of the season finales for American Idol. It went on for a long time but then our contact at Fox disappeared. I asked the other participants if we still existed or not. But after a long time with no replies, we just moved on. It was rude to just let us know — hey thanks for all your efforts but the program is being dropped. It wasn’t like we were paid employees. A courtesy letter or email or whatever would have been nice.