Every once in a while, one of these trending hashtags will catch my eye and I’ll think: “Oh, yeah. I can add to this conversation.” Like, say, yesterday’s #ShareYourRejections hashtag.
I mean, are you kidding? The life of a writer is filled with rejection. When I first started off, I remember being fortified by a story about Stephen King who purportedly wallpapered a room with all of the rejection letters he received before his first story was accepted. In time, I’ve come to doubt the veracity of that particular tale, but I believe in its message. You’re going to be knocked down a hell of a lot more times than you’re going to rewarded in this business. It’s all a matter of how quickly you get back up again.
Yep. This was my contribution. Back in the late 1990’s, Paul and I had just finished up work on a couple of one hour action adventure shows and were looking to land a new gig. Our agent put us up for an upcoming sci-fi series, forwarding the production our writing samples – and forwarding us the series pilot. I recall Paul and I sitting in my apartment in Montreal, watching the episode and, honestly, being left somewhat bewildered. The show was…certainly unique. When I followed up with my agent, he informed me that we had received an early cut and that the producers planned to re-edit the pilot. I never got around to watching the re-edited version (and have long wondered how different it was from that early way-out version) because, alas, Paul and I were not Lexx material. On the bright side, that left us free to pursue other opportunities – specifically, a series called Stargate: SG-1 that was looking for writers to staff on its fourth season. All things being equal, I really can’t complain with the way it all turned out in the end.
Other rejections? Boy, way too many to mention. The ones that sting the most are, of course, the most recent:
The pitch for that comic book horror series I thought was a slam dunk – that went sideways and, ultimately, to someone else.
The pitch for that awesome sci-fi realtime strategy game that, had it gotten the go-ahead, would have truly blown you all away.
The pitch for that sci-fi novel adaptation that had such heart and humor that it actually pained me when the execs passed on my vision for the series.
The pitch for a television adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s Friday.
My pitch for a new Blake’s 7 series.
My pitch for a new Space: 1999 series.
My pitch for that Dark Matter spinoff.
My pitch for that absolutely loopy SG-1 time travel episode
I could go on, and on, and on, and on. But the important thing is that I never let rejections get me down – for long. If I had landed Lexx, I wouldn’t have landed Stargate. And if I hand landed Friday, I wouldn’t have landed Dark Matter.
I truly cannot wait to see what amazing opportunities await as the result of these latest crushing refusals. Something pretty amazing I bet!
12 thoughts on “Share Your Rejections!”
There’s a Jewish saying, beshered meaning it was meant to be. Every time a film I was up to do the online work for goes into turnaround becomes an opportunity to do something else. I admire your perseverance. Your business is hard on the soul. Creativity is to be cherished. I bet your versions of those shows would have been awesome. And I thought Lexx was weird.
Thank you for sharing what was behind that tweet and your special optimism that keeps us hoping too.
Can’t wait either, but boy, I would have loved to see that Space: 1999 reboot. Oh man. Would have been superb.
Sure glad you ended up on the shows I love; Stargate & Dark Matter. You’re a gifted writer with numerous talents, patience and a sense of humor (always a plus in show business). The universe told me in no uncertain terms to remain a spectator & not a participant. 1994: Got a literary agent and started writing spec for X-Files; 1995 got an approval for 1 of my 6 submissions for X-Files; an episode that would, without my permission, end up as “Small Potatoes” (even the title was a dig) which lifted several lines of dialog and story concept from my submitted script which was approved and then rejected because, and this is silly, I was too much of a fan of Gillian Anderson & they told my agent they felt I was trying to get an “in” through her. Sure, she sent me a personalized note on a photo. That isn’t what I’d call an “in.” When I saw that my script was used without payment or credit and partially re-written, my agent told me, “If you sue, is that how you want to break into the business? Take the characters you created and go in a different direction.”
So I followed her advice and in 2001, I got what I thought was a deal memo for 1 screenplay The Cogency about a human who becomes part alien after an abduction for $250,000. I chose Jeff Goldblum as the star as I had a friend who knows him. A month after 9/11/01 I flew to Las Vegas to sign and get started. Turned out I was being used and then dumped. The “production co” was trying to use my screenplay as an exhibit to get a loan and then, thanks to another writer who was hired by this “producer” (Lamotta Roundtree), I found out Roundtree was going to use his rewrite and cut me out of the deal altogether once they got the loan for $10M. So much for my $250K. They at least didn’t get that loan, so bittersweet revenge, I suppose.
Following that debacle I called in some favors and tried to work a new deal, but was stranded in Vegas for 2-1/2 years, and during that bout of homelessness had a stroke in 2002 that nearly killed me. I eventually made it back home to PA in 2004, still working a deal with a friend who was in finance, a brilliant musician from Queens who played in NY orchestras and was also an author of music theory. In 2007. just before the financial collapse, I had a deal for 3 films, one being The Invaders reboot (my associates own the film rights while CBS owned the TV rights) and another a totally original story about a reluctant goddess not too unlike Dr. Manhattan of the Watchmen. The third we didn’t even have a title. Each film had a budget of $50M. We were going to shoot at, believe or not, Bridge Studios in Vancouver, BC. Then the financial collapse happened and our funders, some of which were from overseas, lost their shirts. I lost $10K of my retirement money. No biggie for the big banks….but $10K to me is a LOT of loss.
One good thing came out of all of this: I got a short gig to associate produce, thanks to my 30 year friendship with Roy Thinnes, the DVD release of his series, The Invaders (all 43 episodes). I set up interviews for the DVD extras and wrote all the intros Roy reads prior to each episode. Since then, I’m basically a superfan of sci-fi and will have to rely on my son to carry on my dream of producing a film or even a comic book based on my own creations. I’m working on a children’s book and hopefully will find an artist for that and a graphic novella version of that scifi goddess story I came up with.
Thank you for Stargate. Those episodes got me through some tough times in Vegas (I always watched the show while doing laundry). Also, Dark Matter I got very attached to. That’s the magic of your writing. You create amazing, fun adventures with characters of real depth. I expect you’ll keep doing that and I support you 100% as your superfan.
I hate it that your story is not unique. There is something about the creative work of screenwriting or showrunning that has a disjunction with the business end. I ache with you regarding having your work plagiarized (it’s happened to me too and I never got paid and when I sued the guy who used my work disappeared and I was out $7,200 for a website plus lawyer’s fees.
And still, you persevere and persist to create. I’m so impressed with your constant striving to produce what’s in your head. I have worked with three producers over the past 9 years and only one has gotten an animated film produced and it won at the London Film Festival. The animated lesbian/scifi/musical sound was created by Skywalker Sound and had voice work by George Takei, Michael Dorn, Tim Curry, Alan Tudyk and Claudia Black. Yet, G.B. Hajim, the extremely creative designer/writer/director and his musical partner Shelly Doty could not make back the 5M it cost to create the film. The other movies I’ve script edited and/or performed the online marketing for having all had the same types of fall out of financing over and over again as yours have. Each one was about 10 to 60M and their foreign financiers, as well as other avenues of finance including crowdsourcing, failed to materialize.
So, this is a long way of saying that I am in complete sympathy and wish you great luck on your book.
My producers all say that the day that a movie is greenlit an angel gets its wings.
Now you have me curious…
Really want know about that Dark Matter spin off pitch.
Well, dodging Lexx and winding up on SG1 was a pretty good deal, I would say. It’s funny how things lead on to things. If that one thing had’ve been different and you got that job, how different things would be now. You might not even have this blog! Perish the thought.
I can’t think of a specific rejection to relate. They’re all pretty mild.
Me, “it isn’t how many times you fall down, it is how quickly you get up”.
Officer Friendly, “That isn’t how field sobriety tests work, ma’am”.
Your advice holds in almost all walks of life. Sometimes opportunity falls in your lap, and other times you have to chase it like a dog in the street going after that car bumper (only to see it get smaller and smaller as it slowly fades away). Guess I’m in a sardonic mood this morning…
Some of the best fits seem to go off into the weeds in the most startling of ways (“they chose that?!?”) I can imagine it is an order of magnitude worse for writers, where the decisions can seem so…arbitrary? Good to see you keep a good humor about it. That’s a gift to me on this slow moving Friday August morning. Let’s raise a whiskey shot toast to the capricious hand of fate the next time we meet!
And I just noticed that this WordPress theme looks different on mobile devices when compared with PC browsers. Are you still taking input on deciding which theme to use? If so, I’ll need to look at your blog on a range of devices from now on. 😉
I have tried, on numerous occasions, to watch Lexx. I couldn’t get past the first season. I think I know more about the show from reading its Wiki pages than from actually watching it on the TV. I kept thinking that there must be something to it, otherwise how could it have survived beyond the first season?
It looks like you still must have a couple of horror shows in play, as I don’t see them on your rejection list. Maybe there’s still a chance with this latest batch? There are a lot of revivals turning up lately. I never thought Whedon would let Buffy back out of the box, but I guess it’s happening now, too. Fandom seems to be pretty divided on that one. It’s odd that with all the hoopla and social media support surrounding Stargate a few months ago, MGM hasn’t, (to my knowledge) even acknowledged it. This TV business is really strange, it’s hard to get a grip on what they really are looking for on any given day.
I thought that you and Paul timed Dark Matter at just the right time. I guess in the words of Tweety Bird, “One never knows, do one?”
We tried to watch Lexx again recently and couldn’t make it past the first episode. Whew! You missed that bullet! 🙂 “Never give up, never surrender” Buzz Lightyear
Your tweet yesterday (dishwasher shopping) got me thinking of this discussion on the radio about loading the dishwasher. It reminded me of my late mother-in-law. We got along well but there was one thing she did that drove me crazy. She put her knives in the dishwasher with the blade up. My depth perception is compromised, so unloading her dishwasher was tricky. Someone called in to the radio show and said “People who load a dishwasher with the knives blade up are psychopaths”. 🙂 How do you stand on this? Blade up or down? (just a bit of levity)
Anything cool planned for this weekend?
My mother does the same thing!
Leonid Nimoy remarked that Science-Fiction is disliked by television executives because it is very expensive to make. To stand a better chance you need to think about a series that would be less costly to make. When Doctor Who first started, all they had as a spaceship was a London metropolitan police box knocked together with a few sheets of plywood! The alien planet was all filmed in the studio. The aliens were Daleks – simple and cheap to make. No CGI. No field trips to the Canadian wilderness!