Monday, November 24, 2008

The Writing Week part 47 - Bittersweet Rejection

Just before I left for South Africa, I received an email from one of the three companies that had requested my post-Apocalyptic spec based on my query letter – in total, I had sent queries to just 12 companies. (I took the frugal route and decided to test the strength of my query letter by sending it out to a handful of companies, which not only produced or managed the kind of material I had written, but readily accepted queries by email. I recommend this strategy to writers, as it saves money on postage and, in a time when many people are doubting the success of querying, can be just as effective if not more so than paper mailings.) The email I got, which was from the script reader/receptionist at this particular company, informed me that he really liked the script, as did the readers, and would be recommending it to the managers. I left the country on a high note with something to look forward to.

Unfortunately, when I returned Stateside, I had the anti-email from what I was hoping for. The generic rejection email I received let me know that though my writing was strong, the company is small and cannot take me on as a client. I was thanked for my submission and encouraged to re-submit a query for any new projects down the road. The disappointing nature of the email threw me into an instant funk. I felt as if my plans had been derailed, and the opportunity posed to me by my friend in Africa – being a nature videographer for his game reserve – began to look all the more appealing. I thanked the assistant for his time and getting back to me, asked what he would like to read in the future in case I had anything like that, and began to think about making more serious plans to return to Africa and write from there, to give myself a longer break from the East Coast/West Coast dilemma.

Onyx would say that what happened next was “the screenwriting gods telling me to stick with it.” I came into work last Friday after having really begun thinking about moving abroad for a while to two emails. The first email was a fourth request for my script based on my query, bringing my batting average to .333. The second email was a very generous and uncommon email from the assistant who had the displeasure of rejecting my script. He sent me over a full page of notes – most of which were quite positive – on my script and explained more about why I had not been picked up as a client (a focus the company is making on established writers). He was very supportive of my work and encouraged me to re-send the script if I did a re-write. I know that notes and such encouragement are not common in this industry, and was incredibly grateful to him for his time. And when he offered to read a logline for any other completed scripts I have – an opportunity I took him up on, which led to another script request – I knew that this guy was looking out for me. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to give his name or company here, but let’s just say that his honest and incredibly helpful dealings with me renewed that fire in me to write.

I thought I would take the rest of the year slowly, work on a new script but not really try to push anything else out into the industry just yet. I see now that I was wrong to think that way. Mind you, I never meant to give up on writing – far from it. But the high of Africa mixed with the then just bitter rejection I got stopped me in my tracks. Now, though, that rejection has become bittersweet, with an emphasis on sweet, and my first real industry notes have compelled me onward. If you have what it takes, you will make it. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but stick with it. The screenwriting gods command it.

Screen Alert - The Wrestler

Screen Alert is a short, irregular segment highlighting noteworthy films that we saw during advanced screenings. Keep an eye out for these cinematic gems when they hit theaters.

A little while ago, Onyx, Zombie, and I had the great pleasure of attending an early screening of THE WRESTLER, starring Mickey Rourke, directed by Darren Aronofsky. I went into the picture a little skeptical; I'm not really a fan of WWE style wrestling, like, at all. I was more attracted to the film for its director, as I think REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a truly beautiful picture.

Damn am I glad we went to that screening. Other than a few sometimes difficult to watch, gruesome wrestling scenes, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I got so much more out of the story than I had anticipated. The writing, I thought, was as strong as anything else to emerge this year, and I will definitely be scouting the script in the next few months to come.

Mickey Rourke - whom I have been a mild fan of, at best - was a thoroughly engaging washed up pro wrestler. I felt quite deeply for him as he tried to get his life, his career, and his relationship with his daughter back on track. What's more, he was a very down-to-earth protagonist. Often, I find that a character who faces a potentially life threatening or career ending obstacle will face it head on, not so much because they're brave, but because they're arrogant and stupid. Rourke's character, on the other hand, deals with a dangerous health risk in a smart, level-headed way that only increased my support of him. On top of it all, Rourke's performance is, in my opinion, outstanding, worthy of an Oscar nod.

I was blown away by this little gem. You do not have to enjoy or even like wrestling to get behind THE WRESTLER. When it gets its wide release in January (limited release in December), I strongly urge you to go see it. This, unlike many gambles we've talked about, is a $12 sure bet.