One of the most painful ailments filmmakers will suffer from in their careers is the “Hurry Up and Wait” syndrome. Breaking your neck to finish a project that someone powerful wants to “see it ASAP,” only to find you won’t get a response from him or her for weeks, even months, is just flat-out deflating. What’s worse is when you attempt to follow-up on your project; you hear excuses of why nobody has reviewed your work yet, or you get instructions not to contact them again. Like the 1975 Sugarloaf hit song says, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” In the time it takes them to hang up, you go from being a “hot filmmaker” with distributor interest, to a “nuisance” who just blew several months on a person who never actually reviewed your work.
As a card-carrying victim of the “Hurry Up and Wait” syndrome, I’m here to tell you there are few things more damaging to your cinematic spirit than having your work ignored. Thus, today we’re going to discuss ways to navigate through the syndrome. While there is no cure, these tactics should at least help with your pain and discomfort.
Only Submit to Entities That Are Truly Interested
One thing you can do to cut down on your chances of getting affected with “Hurry Up and Wait” syndrome is to only submit your work to places that truly want it. For example, if you, the filmmaker, find yourself pitching your script or finished film to a distributor or studio executive, and they say things like, “I’m not sure if your film is right for us,” or “we’re focused on a specific agenda these days,” then don’t try to convince them otherwise. Sure, on occasion, they may be pleasantly surprised with your submission, but more often than not, they know what they want and if it’s not your film, it’s not your film. Thus, all you’re going to do when you try to convince someone to take a look at a project they are not thrilled about, is destine that project a permanent home at the bottom of a pile in a dark corner behind somebody’s assistant’s intern’s desk. Your project deserves better, and you deserve better!
Make Sure The Timing of Your Submission is Right
Timing is everything in most aspects of life, and submitting your project is no exception. Thus, once you hook interest from someone, politely try to find out when the best time to submit is. Yes, I know most filmmakers want to rush to FED EX and overnight their film or e-mail their script as soon as they get the green light to do so, but knowing when the person you are submitting to has time to review your work, may cut down on your waiting time by weeks or even months. You may want to approach the distributor/executive with something like, “I know how busy you are, and so is there a better time for me to submit my project to you?” Doing so will earn you major brownie points with them. In fact, their response is usually something like, “no, you’re fine. Go ahead and send it to my assistant” or they’ll say, “Yes, there is a better time. I’m slammed for a couple of weeks, so why don’t you contact my assistant tomorrow and check when you should submit.” Either way, you’ll stay in their “good graces,” and that in it is sometimes worth as much or more than if they actually wind up liking your project.
Check Your Ego at the Door
Boasting about how “hot” your film or script is and how many distributors are dying to get it will get you nowhere. The reason is, if your boast were true, then you would not have to say a word, because the distributors would already know about you and your project. Furthermore, boasting, especially when its unwarranted, tells everyone you’re a class “A” a*****e. So, don’t be “that guy” or “that gal.” Another reason not to engage in this tactic is that you’ll give the distributor yet another reason not to get back to you. Remember, they may punish your project as a way of punishing your actions.
Allow The Process of Discovery to Occur
It’s far more refreshing for a distributor to be pleasantly surprised with your project, than to think it falls short of your lofty description of it. Thus, presenting your project, as something they “might like” will get you further than guaranteeing it’s the best script or film they’ll even see. Furthermore, taking a more humble approach will almost certainly get your project reviewed far quicker than normal. Hence, let them “discover” how wonderful your project is, as opposed forcing it’s merit down their collective throats. Discovery is a tricky concept, especially since it only happens if your project is truly worthy of being discovered. However, if your project is ready, it’s better to allow “discovery” to happen rather than to force the issue.
When To Follow Up
The trickiest part of navigating the “Hurry Up and Wait” syndrome is to know when, and how to follow up. First of all, after you send the project in, wait a few days (up to seven) and then send an email asking them to confirm the receipt of your submission. Remember; do not ask them if they have reviewed your submission on your first contact after submitting. Just ask them if they have received it.
Then, wait a few more weeks before calling and inquiring if somebody has had a chance to take a look at your project. “Not yet,” “we’re not interested,” or “it’s really busy these days, can you check back in a few weeks” will be the most common responses you hear. This is because if they were dying to sign your film or buy your script, then they would have contacted you far sooner. Regardless of the response you get, you need to keep your cool. Getting angry or frustrated will only damage your project’s chances as well as your chances of maintaining a healthy relationship with the place you submitted to.
Okay, friends. That’s the insight I have for you today. While I certainly hope none of you ever contract “Hurry Up and Wait” syndrome, if you do catch it, I hope these tactic help your recovery process. Thanks again for lending me your eyes and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week! I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.