A friend of mine recently had to listen to a detailed and very harshly worded rejection of a script he’d worked on for a long time. The characters were flat and uninteresting, there wasn’t enough suspense and action, the narrative was too predictable, and so on. None of this criticism made much sense in terms of being objectively accurate, but it was thrown at the poor guy anyway, just to let him know who knew about screenwriting and who didn’t.
He and I discussed his nerve-jangling encounter over a couple of beers, and as he told me how he’d responded to the rejection, I realized this guy had his head screwed on the right way. The following, paraphrased and screened for adult content, is what he told me:
“My initial response was anger. I needed the gig and these bastards obviously hadn’t taken the time to understand or visualize what I’d written. But then I thought: hey, that’s MY job. If they don’t get it, I didn’t do my job properly. That’s not a self-piteous put-down, that’s just a statement of fact. My anger disappeared as soon as I began imagining myself re-writing the script.”
This made sense! More beer was ordered. He continued:
“Then I realized something else: One of the specific criticisms was that all the characters seemed to conveniently represent a different aspect of the theme, which came across as contrived. But that’s exactly what I intended! Well, not the contrived bit, of course, but the distribution of thematic angles among the main characters. It’s a structural thing I’m experimenting with. I’m obviously not quite there yet. Anyway, by pointing to what they considered a weakness, they’d given me a huge compliment and indicated precisely where I needed to do some more work!”
Talk about positive thinking! Rhonda Byrne is a pessimist by comparison. He concluded, grinningly:
“So, pretty soon after receiving this scathing criticism, I actually wanted to get down to work rewriting the thing. But I couldn’t, because in the interim I’d already started work on two other ideas I had lying around. Like getting straight back in the saddle after a fall? Know what I mean?”
Indeed I do. Rejection is par for the screenwriter’s course. Make it your friend instead of your enemy. And never throw away any of those crumpled, stained scraps of paper with illegible ideas scribbled on them that you accidentally wash along with your trousers.