Monday, August 11, 2014
My writing partner, David Isaacs, and I have had our share of rejections over the years. But every so often we'll get one that really gets our attention because of the explanation. Here are a few. If you've been in the business for more than twenty minutes you probably have six examples of your own.
We did a pilot once for NBC. We turned it in and they said, “This is exactly what we’re looking for.” We were feeling great. A few days later they passed. Their explanation: “This was exactly what we were looking for… last week.”
I once wrote a spec screenplay. A studio executive rejected it, but said, “The writing was so good it almost fooled me into liking this movie.” Gee, thanks.
A pilot we developed for Fox was rejected as being “too NBC.” At the time NBC was the gold standard for comedies and Fox was a mess. So I guess that was a compliment... maybe?
Early in our career ABC came to us to develop a family pilot. We did. They rejected it. Why? Because they had also developed one with Erma Bombeck but she had a commitment. So ABC said to us, “If it’s any consolation, yours was much better.” No. Not really.
Very early in our career we had a two-pilot deal at NBC. They had to produce at least one of the two scripts. They chose to greenlight the first. The pilot process was a struggle, filled with “creative differences.” The show didn’t get on the air (losing out to PINK LADY AND JEFF), but we still had another script commitment. So we worked with them, developed a new project, turned it in, and the VP of Comedy Development called us to say, “Wow. Guys. I’m really impressed. You guys really put a lot of effort into this even though you had to know there was no way we were going to make it.” Again, thanks. Were we pros or schmucks?
When Les Moonves pulled the plug on ALMOST PERFECT he told me “it was the best show he ever cancelled.” Yes, on one hand that’s gratifying, but on the other – seriously??? (I’m still waiting for the reverse – someone to say, “This is the worst thing I ever bought.”)
No matter how you get rejected, the key is to shake it off and move forward. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting, or was fair, but you have to rise above it. You don’t have to sell everything. Just enough. And if you do sell enough and become hot enough, then suddenly everybody will want to buy all the stuff they had rejected. Even the stuff that wasn't "the best."
UPDATE: I will post tomorrow my reflections on the tragic death of Robin Williams. I need some time to process it. My heart goes out to his family and millions of fans.