How They Say No In The Film Industry

Funny thing about the film industry is that it’s all about communication. And all about being really clear about what you mean.
When I wrote this article back in the mid 1990’s I had no idea that it would catch on so quickly, and become the hallmark of how the film industry is anything but clear. If you have any additions to this list, please add them into the comments box below.
Elliot Grove
London May 2019

People in the film industry love to use the word YES all the time – but rarely does the word YES mean a yes. The usual meaning of the word YES is the word NO.

YES means ‘yes’, when it is attached to one of the following two phrases:
– Yes, could I please have details of your bank?
– Yes, get your lawyer to call our head of business and legal affairs.

The word ‘NO”

People in the film industry are always reluctant to use the word No in case you become an overnight success.

For example: Raindance student Guy Ritchie was turned down by every single UK financing source when he was trying to finance his first feature: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. When the movie became a critical and commercial success, several people who had turned him down were fired.

Why wait for a NO when you can make your movie yourself, with much less money than the film industry would need! Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking weekend masterclass

How they say “NO” in the film industry

Thus the common expressions of the word NO are:

Yes. I really like it.
Don’t call me I’ll call you.
That is really good. Let me kick it around here in the office and get right back to you.

The only time a “yes” means a “yes” is when you get money.

Some definitions of commonly used words:


to schmooze = befriend scum
to pitch = grovel shamelessly
to brainstorm = feign preparedness
to research = procrastinate indefinitely
to network = spread misinformation
to collaborate = argue incessantly
to freelance = collect unemployment


agent = frustrated lawyer
lawyer = frustrated producer
producer = frustrated writer
scriptwriter = frustrated director
director = frustrated actor
actor = frustrated human


high-concept = low brow
production value = gore
entry-level = pays nothing
highly qualified = knows the producer
network approved = had made them money
being discovered – you got a cheque


net = something that apparently doesn’t exist
gross = Michael Eisner’s salary
back-end = you, if you think you’ll ever see it
residuals = braces for the kids
deferral = don’t hold your breath
points = see “net” or “back-end”


You can trust me = You must be new
It needs some polishing = Change everything
It shows promise = It stinks rotten
It needs some fine tuning = Change everything
I’d like some input = I want total control
It needs some honing = Change everything
Call me back next week = Stay out of my life
It needs some tightening = Change everything
Try and punch it up = I have no idea what I want
It needs some streamlining = Change everything
You’ll never work in this town again = I have no power whatsoever

If you have another way they say “NO” in the film industry please leave in the comments box below!



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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