When I saw the title of Dwayne Alexander Smith’s article in the July/August edition of Script and the accompanying, enticing picture of the sexy, welcoming, smiling woman with the “no” and “yes” signs, I became quite excited. “The Agony of the Silent No” must contain the answers to my problems. However, soon enough I realized the woman in the picture wasn’t welcoming me, but only teasing me, and that she would leave through the back door before I ever found out if we were going home together… or something like that.
First of all, Dwayne’s article did provide a little bit of a catharsis for me in that it illustrates even successful writers, such as himself, have received the infamous, unexpected Silent No. Even his successful, unnamed, you’d-know-him-if-we-knew-who-it-was, producer friend received it recently. Another writer interviewed in a previous Script article (who gave up on the business), described it as “Crickets.” I personally describe it as, “Where are the fucking manners in this town, you wimps?”
My experience with the unexpected Silent No hasn’t been limited to one occasion, but it culminated last year with Company A. My writing partner and I brought in an original idea to Company A to develop it after they initially sparked to the short pitch in a general. After a couple creative meetings and a lot of back and forth via email, they seemed genuinely excited about the outline. The way they liked to work is to receive act one first as an individual piece – cool, an achievable goal for a writer! We delivered what we thought was a structurally solid, if anything hilarious, first act, that needed work but was on its way. Never a response. Weeks go by. Our manager contacts them. Nothing. Emails from us go unanswered. Finally, three or four months later, we get the email we’ve been waiting for! Something like “So sorry, been meaning to get back to you – will get you notes soon…been slammed!” The last we ever heard from them. Crickets. That was a year ago. Now we’re stuck with a bunch of work that was taken in a direction specifically based on one company’s tastes, and we’ll probably never revisit the idea again.
So while I enjoyed Dwayne’s article, it was also maddening because it brings up old scars that years of therapy won’t heal (until I sell the Big One of course.) What I want to know is how to conquer the unexpected Silent No when you receive it. Or better yet, does anyone have any advice on how to spot a situation where an executive might be prone to the Silent No? Apparently we’ve all experienced it. It feels like there must be answers other than just expecting it and then giving up when it happens, especially when you’ve put so much work into a project that otherwise seems like it still deserves attention.