I woke up this morning to what seems like my eight hundredth rejection letter, this time from Imagine Impact. To be fair, they received 4000 submissions for 20 spots and the opportunity of a lifetime, but so far this year I have been turned down by the Writer’s Lab, Sundance Episodic, American Zoetrope, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Page Awards, Script Pipeline, the Launch Pad, We Screenplay, Shore Scripts Screenwriting Contest, Stowe Story Labs, and the Screencraft Screenwriting Fellowship, just to name a few.
I am no longer as devastated as I once was by rejection letters, having been on the receiving end of the “thanks but no thanks” email more often than not this year.
I feel I am in good company. I met several Academy Award winners last year who said pitching their first project after bringing home an Oscar was no easier and no more guaranteed than pitching projects before winning an Oscar. I met writers who’d won nearly every single major screenwriting competition they’d entered, and they were no farther along than I was. People expect to pay their dues in every profession because at some point, the experience you’ve gained along the way will advance you to the next level. In the film business, you can work your ass off and never make a lateral move much less climb the ladder no matter how hard you try, who you know or how many awards you have under your belt. A producer I know who works for an Academy Award winning actress told me not long ago, “if its this hard for us to get anywhere in this business, how much harder is it for people who don’t have the connections we do?”
The problem I have with the constant rejection is that every time I feel as though I am about the reach the top of the wall, out of nowhere, a two hundred foot addition to the wall appears and I am no farther along than when I started.
I used to tell God that if he would just get out of my way, I would have gotten where I wanted to be a long time ago. And while I am old enough now to recognize that there are a great many things I wanted that its a good thing I didn’t get, I also have to recognize that I set this impossible goal for myself. I want to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and I want to make enough money so we can quit working on RV toilets, and I want that to happen now.
Not winning a spot with Imagine Impact, Sundance Episodic or the Writers Lab stings. But the goal was always to make movies and screenwriting competitions seemed like a good path toward reaching that goal.
It’s like a friend of mine used to say when I was the top selling gourd artist in the world and I still couldn’t get into art galleries. He said being an artist was hard, that my chances of getting to the top were slim to none, and used Dale Chihuly as an example of how few artists make it all the top. But if Dale Chihuly could get to the top, then why couldn’t I?
I figure its time for me to stop waiting for Sundance, or Austin or Nicholls or even Ron Howard and Brian Grazer to give me the thumbs up. I’m just gonna go ahead and make my own dreams come true. I don’t need anyone permission but my own. And with this new script I have been working on, I’m going to get there. After all, if Dale Chihuly or Bono Hewson, or Stan Lee can do it, so can I.