As a screenwriter in charge of my own destiny, I must survive by any means possible out here in movie land.
And part of that survival is: I have to know what the tea leaves say; I gotta know how I’m doing in a world full to the brim with invisible signals, unspoken truths, and a sophisication of symbols worthy of a geisha and her fan. Every gesture tells a story! But what are the gestures telling me?
So once I send my script out, pitch my story, or go in to the studio to make a sale and am waiting for an answer, how do I know how I am doing?
Here are some of my silly little rules that help me cope:
1. All Good News Happens Before Noon! I don’t know why this is, but it is. Whenever I am waiting for an answer, I only have to wait until 1:00 p.m. If the phone hasn’t rung by the time they’ve gone to lunch — it’s a “no.”
2. Two Weeks Is Too Long. If you are still reading my script two weeks from now and have not called me, you are not interested. I don’t get mad, I don’t get upset, but I do get on with my life.
3. “We’ll talk about this among ourselves and get back to you.” If you hear this statement by a studio executive after you have gone in to his/her office and pitched your movie idea, this is a “pass” — even if it’s accompanied by “It’s great!”, “We love it!”, or “We want to be in business with you.”
(And by the way, God bless ’em! What else can they say? It’s so much nicer than being thrown out with: “And never darken our towels again!!!”)
4. The sudden doctor’s appointment. Picture this: You are on your way to the meeting, you have prepared your pitch, you’ve sweated bullets all night getting ready — and your cell phone rings: The exec is canceling! He’s gone to the doctor. No, he hasn’t.
5. Silence Is Not Golden. “Just tell me the condition of my airplane!” said John Glenn (Ed Harris ) in The Right Stuff. But when you have gone in to pitch your idea, and they say they’ll call back but they don’t, and seasons change, and you’re still waiting to hear, well, you have heard.
6. “As soon as we get back from Cannes…” aka “As soon as we get back from Telluride…” aka “As soon as we get back from lunch…” They never come back. Say goodbye and God love ya! And thanks for the Evian!
7. “We have something like that in development” = “Good idea!”
8. “I loved your movie!” = “I just Imdb’d you.”
9. “I just have to check with my partner.” (see Rule 6)
10. “I’ll call business affairs. Would you like them to call your agent or your manager?” Congratulations! You can now reassess Rules 1-9
All of this, of course, is about the most important thing: moving forward. When I get hung up waiting for someone else, odds are I’m not doing what I’ve been put on this earth to do: write! The tryanny of not knowing is mostly what it does to my spirit — and my attitude. Well, forget it, and get back to work. Write, query six new potential buyers, make contacts, help others. That takes my mind off the things that are out of my control, and back onto the fun of doing this job. And that’s what it ‘s really about.