How Creatives Reject Rejection: Critical and Expert Advice from Elliot Grove of Raindance

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Sometimes you will suffer such a humiliating amount of rejection that you will feel like giving up. You will enter your own personal Big Gloom. You are beating yourself up. You have lost the light at the end of the tunnel.

There is nothing I can say to you except that at this point you are probably suffering from the one disease which no doctor can cure – self-pity. There is only one person who can help you and that is you.

Let me tell you a true story:

After high school, I went to art school in Toronto. In order to support myself, I needed a summer job. In my middle year at art school, I left it too late to get a good job. All my classmates (who were less talented than I) found great jobs with high pay – driving Post Office vans, filling in as PA’s in the financial district, or working up north as park rangers.

The only job I could find was working for a real estate company going door-to-door, trying to get the owners to give me instructions to sell their property. For this, I was to be paid a commission relative to the value of the property.

I spent the first two days suffering every form of rejection known to mankind: I was chased by the snapping guard dog, saluted by drugged-out housewives, threatened by irate night shift workers I had woken from slumber, and greeted by the stony silence of the locked door. On top of that, the elements were very unkind. It was the hottest heat wave in living memory, and I developed blisters.

I went back to the owner of the agency and told him I couldn’t do this anymore. I was prepared to do anything but. I would carry out the trash, mow the grass, and paint the shutters – anything but go door to door. Unfortunately, his was the only job available. And I needed a job desperately, or I wouldn’t be able to finish art school.

You have nothing to fear but fear itself. – Winston Churchill

I timidly asked him how many doors I would have to knock on until I got a “yes”. I already had forty-seven rejection slips. He looked at the map on the wall, scratched his chin, and said “About a hundred”. A hundred! I couldn’t imagine that.

Still desperate for a job, I asked him how much commission I would get for that. Again he studied the chart, pulled out some sales figures and said ‘About $3,000’ (2,000 GPS).

So I decided that the only way this would work for me was to reframe the problem in my mind: ‘You mean $3,000 divided by a hundred means $30 for every “no”?’

I raced around the neighbourhood. I knocked on door after door. Do you want to sell your house? No? Great! And I would earn another $30! I could hardly wait for someone to say “no” because I knew I was one closer to my payoff. Sure enough, after one hundred and seventeen, I had my first instruction. The next was eighty-seven, and it really did average around a hundred “no’s” to one “yes”. I had the best summer job I ever had.

However you do it, you have to be able to depersonalize rejection. Try to make it fun.

The Raindance ‘reject rejection’ offer

Which is why Raindance has decided to offer something positive to writers struggling with rejection. Whenever you get a rejection letter, send me a copy (use the form below). I will instantly send you a letter of acceptance to the Raindance Gallery of Rejection. And you know what I’m going to do, don’t you?

When you are famous and have a hit film, I will advertise the fact that, that when you were unknown, you read this at Raindance and wrote me a letter in your moment of deepest despair. And I will have the proof right here in the Gallery of Rejection. I will market the fact that you read the Raindance website!

I will send you a personalized letter of acceptance to the Gallery of Rejection so you will have at least one “yes” in your file.

Submit your rejection letters to the Gallery of Rejection




Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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