Say Something Already! When The Industry Doesn’t Communicate
Silence can be infuriating. You wrote a great script. You made contact through a previous relationship, pitching opportunity, or other means. You waited for the invite. When it came, you sent your script in. Well crafted. Under 120 pages. Smart. Skilled. Clean. Or else, you developed an outline for somebody else. Followed their guidelines. Hit all their story points. Or, worse yet, you’ve found a producing partner, one who is supposed to be invested in the realization of your work and instead… Nothing. Silence. Crickets.
While indeed human decency should have a place in the entertainment industry, and one would hope that every email sent and phone call made would be returned, the reality is this: Most executives, be they of the production, development or representation worlds, have more to do than they have time to do it. Many executives don’t communicate if they don’t have something specific to say or report. This will likely continue as you secure representation, begin to work with development executives, and ultimately work with high powered producers.
Let’s look at a few of these scenarios:
You were asked for a script at a pitch event after which… Nothing.
While consistent and methodical follow-ups for a period are recommended and deemed (as long as they are executed maturely) the sign of a professional, if 8-10 weeks passed and you’ve yet to hear back from the executive on the other end of your email, it is likely that your submission got trumped by so many others of greater interest, it either didn’t get read or received negative coverage. While everyone should hope for a courteous “pass,” often times executives are so busy that, in lieu of an assistant with time on their hands, they move onto their next to-do, their next read, their next meeting without communicating their pass. While this is not in any way ideal, this is, quite often, the way things work.
You’ve received notes from an executive and submitted a new draft
If you’ve not heard anything back, it’s likely the executive has not had the opportunity to read it yet. The other likely scenarios are that either a) she has more notes and needs time to compile those, or b) she decided that the project might not be right for her, and is therefore getting a second opinion from trusted colleagues before she makes her final decision. Either way, and while you should follow up within a reasonable time frame (every 2-3 weeks), it is likely that you will not hear back until the draft is read, more notes are written, or decisions are made.
You’ve delivered a development or production executive material for projects that originated with them
If you’ve delivered an outline, a written pitch, or even a full screenplay to an executive based on a concept or material that originated with him, believe me, he has interest in it. The executive brought you into the fold to help develop the work, and is now either contemplating the material, or waiting on answers that will come from those above his pay grade. Whether the executive is considering the work, reconsidering the project’s place on the company’s slate, or waiting for a meeting with higher-ups or other companies to take place, he will likely not reach out to you again unless and until there is news to share.
You are working with an established producing partner, but can’t get him to return your call
It’s unfortunate that in Hollywood executives don’t return every call and every email that comes their way, but as executives continue to be overloaded with urgent matters, that continues to often be the case. Consider what sort of communication you require in order to feel comfortable in the relationship, and communicate this to the person you’re working with (without being demanding or overbearing). Accept that your producing partner may have many more stokes in the fire than you are aware of, and is juggling many balls at any given moment. If you communicate with your partner only when significant developments occur, they will be that much more likely to respond in a timely fashion to most of your calls and emails. Still, remember that everyone has a personal life too, and may drop off the radar for a period of time for reasons completely unrelated: Vacation. Health reasons. A crisis in the family. So be patient and understanding as best you can.
So… Why follow up then?
Of course, this raises the question: Why should you even follow up in the first place? The answer is simple: As an industry professional, it’s your job to do your diligence. To follow up with the pros. To ensure that materials were received and things have not fallen through the cracks. To stay on top of things in a courteous, professional manner, so that you have no questions about your own conduct or regrets about material that just might be languishing somewhere.
For more guidelines about following up on your industry bound screenplay, check out my blog from last April.