How long is too long to wait for a Hollywood executive to respond to your submission? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re busy or if they’re just not that into you.
My email pinged yesterday with a question: “What’s the appropriate timeframe between communications with producers/reps/etc.?”
Excellent question with no perfect answer.
In life, I typically function with the belief “no news is good news.” But in this industry, the exact opposite is true. If an exec has your script and loves it, they will call… immediately. If they didn’t love it, they toss it into a pile, and you’ll never hear from them again. Assume you are not the exception to the rule.
He’s just not that into you.
Let’s take a quote directly from Greg Behrendt, the writer of the popular dating-advice book He’s Just Not That Into You, “If he’s not calling you, it’s because you are not on his mind. Be aware of this and realize that he’s okay with disappointing you.”
Finding the right producer/writer fit is much like finding a mate.
I’ve written before about diving into your craft to stay sane while playing the waiting game, but here’s one very important rule: You have to deal with things as they are, not as you want them to be. Live in reality.
But back to the original question: How long do you wait to contact an exec who is reading your script?
Believe me, if they’re interested, your phone will be ringing. If weeks have gone by, the odds are, they just aren’t that into your script. But there’s always that shot that maybe they forgot. Maybe the dog ate it. Maybe they really are busy.
For me, I typically wait four weeks, depending on my relationship with the executive. If it’s a friend, I’ll ping them earlier, but if it’s an exec I know is slammed with work, I’ll wait.
A few years ago I submitted a script to one of those top A-list production companies. I waited the four weeks and emailed asking politely if she had a chance to look over the script. She immediately responded with apologies she hadn’t. No worries, I said. After another month, I pinged her again. Still no read. This time, I had a rewrite and offered it up. She happily agreed to read it. After more follow-ups, six months, and three rewrites later, she finally read the script… and passed.
But, she loved my writing, my patience, and my positive attitude. If I had not followed through with her, I wouldn’t have developed the relationship. Not only do I call her every time I’m in L.A., I introduce her to people I think can help her. She’s developed friendships and professional relationships with other people in my network. She has a warm and fuzzy feeling about me, and I have an open door to submit scripts to her in the future.
The truth is, most reads will lead to a pass on your script, but if you are smart, you can still salvage something positive out of the rejection.
This industry is ALL about relationships. Your challenge is to learn which ones are toxic and which ones are worth the wait.
More from Behrendt, “What I can do is paint you a picture of what you’ll never see when you’re with a guy who’s really into you: You’ll never see you staring maniacally at your phone, willing it to ring.”
If your script grabs a producer by the throat, they will call… immediately. The trick is to be patient enough to give them time to actually read it. I can’t tell you how many I have come across who have my unread script in a pile collecting dust.
The best way to get your script to the top of the pile is to have someone the executive trusts refer you, but we all know how hard finding that connection is. So, your best bet is to handle yourself professionally in your follow-through.
Cream rises to the top, not just with great writing but also with professionalism.
I admit, being patient sucks. It’s exhausting to always take the high road or to sit by the phone hoping it will ring. Want to know what I wish? I wish the rules were simpler. I wish people would just call a spade a spade. I wish producers would call or email and say, “Thanks for the read. I don’t like it. Good luck.”
Sure, I might cry, but you know what I’d do next? Just like in any breakup, I’d learn from it. I’d learn how to work on myself, my scripts, and my career choices to become a better writer and business person, making me more attractive to the next executive I pitch.
I would become a badass faster if only executives would be more upfront. I hate having my time wasted.
But as Behrendt says in his book, men would rather die than be honest and risk a woman crying into the phone. To that, I say, “Man up. Bring it. Hit us between the eyes. We can take it. We have alligator skin.”
Why? Because rejection is inevitable in love and in writing.
As much as I wish honesty and directness would prevail, that is breaking my own rule of embracing reality as it exists. This industry is not going to change any more than unicorns and leprechauns are going to shower me with gold and writing credits.
“Every movie we see, every story we’re told implores us to wait for it, the third act twist, the unexpected declaration of love, the exception to the rule. But sometimes we’re so focused on finding our happy ending we don’t learn how to read the signs. How to tell from the ones who want us and the ones who don’t, the ones who will stay and the ones who will leave. And maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a guy, maybe… it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself up for something better in the future. Maybe the happy ending is… just… moving on. Or maybe the happy ending is this, knowing after all the unreturned phone calls, broken-hearts, through the blunders and misread signals, through all the pain and embarrassment you never gave up hope.”
Hope. That’s what we live on. More than anything, we writers live on the hope one of those executives will kiss our frog of a script and turn it into a prince. That will only happen if we keep submitting our scripts, stay grounded in reality, keep acting professional and never give up.
One more word of advice from Behrendt, “Always be classy. Never be crazy.” The last thing an executive needs is a pathetic, desperate writer with unrealistic expectations. Nothing will kill your career faster.
What are your thoughts and strategies on submission follow-through? Let’s get the discussion started!
Tools to Help:
- Screenwriting Software
- Pitch Clinic: Get Your Pitch in Top Shape with the Story Specialists
- Hollywood Screenwriting Directory