Breaking In: Abandon Ship? Or, Don’t Give Up the Ship? (The Sequel)

In a recent blog posting, I gave you the 10 signs that you should think about abandoning your screenplay.  Today, I’ll give you my top 10 tips for knowing when to keep on submitting or working on your script, despite getting rejections.

DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP!

1)   … when people in the film industry reject your script only because it’s in a currently out-of-fashion, expensive, or “unpopular” genre, rather than because the story or characters aren’t up to snuff.  For example, if you wrote a pirate movie 16 years ago, when, despite the long and illustrious history of successful pirate movies, the last high-profile pirate movie at the time (Cutthroat Island) had been a recent and famous fiasco, you probably would have been told you’d never sell your script and that nobody wants to see movies about pirates.  Of course, Johnny Depp and his gold teeth would later prove this theory wrong.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with your script, but the timing for submitting it to the marketplace is wrong. Or maybe you just have to find someone willing to take a risk on it, despite the seemingly poor timing. Yes, some genres are much harder to sell than others. But you should never give up on a great script, and there’s no such thing as a genre that’s truly unmarketable if the script is great.  Still, keep in mind that you really need to be sure of the real reason someone is rejecting your material. It may not just be the genre. Producers or agents won’t always be frank with you about the real reasons they are rejecting your script. So, if they read your screenplay and then they tell you, “We love your script, but we’re not doing anything historical right now,” that may not be the truth.  Chances are, they really didn’t “love” your script.

2) … when someone truly prominent and successful in the film business, who has read your script, doesn’t know you personally, and has no reason to lie to you, really and truly loves it and actually offers to help you sell your script or make connections —  and follows through on that promise. Having this kind of support and validation helped me get through a lot of rejections early in my writing career, with my self-confidence intact.

3) … if you’re passionate about your story and characters, not just your concept or basic idea.

4) … if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to rewrite it successfully, you have good advice from a qualified script analyst or screenwriting teacher on how to do this, and your script is not conceptually flawed.

5) … if you haven’t had the script evaluated yet by a professional “reader,” who will give you notes and suggestions for revisions.

6) … if you’re still working on the script because you believe in it, and not because you’re afraid to start on a new script or admit “failure.” There’s no shame in letting go of a project if you have to.  Giving up on a particular script is not the same as giving up on your talents or your hopes of becoming a working screenwriter.

7) … when you have gotten tremendously positive, detailed feedback on your script and encouragement from people in the industry who don’t know you, and they tell you it only needs a little work in order to be marketable.

8) … if you’re certain that you’ve written the kind of script that readers will either “love” or “hate,” and are sure that this is simply a matter of personal taste. Note: Personal taste plays only a very small role in readers’ judgments about scripts. But it does play a role, especially if you’ve written a script that is groundbreaking or highly controversial in some way. Comedies also tend to be scripts that individual readers either find funny, or they don’t. There is little middle ground on this.

9) … when the only thing that’s holding you back is your fear of failure.

10) … if you are too stubborn to quit working on your script, but you’ve kept your “day job.”

Keep pitching.  See you next month.

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