Way back in 1981 when I was 13, I fell in love with Tom Petty’s new album, “Hard Promises.” My favorite song on the album was “The Waiting,” and my favorite line from the song was “The waiting is the hardest part.” I used to crank “The Waiting,” over my Koss headphones all summer long, because I was counting down the days until I turned 14, so I could get a moped license and get a moped. Little did I know that Tom Petty’s classic would become the anthem to my career, because decades later, I still spend time waiting (even on funded projects that are moving forward “quickly”). Thus, today we are going to explore three specific elements of “waiting”. So, let’s not wait a second more and get into this!
The 90-Day Submission Response Rule With Agents
Believe it or not, agents are obligated to respond to your material within 90 days of your submission date. This is a binding obligation for all licensed agents. However, since most filmmakers are unaware of this stipulation, it’s rarely followed or enforced. If an agent wants to read your work, then he or she will have your script read within 90-days. But, if they are “doing you a favor” by giving your work a look, then they may never get around to reading it. Thus, you should only submit your work to agents who have a genuine interest in representing you. Entering any situation other than one in which the agent pursued you, is just going to frustrate you beyond belief, and more importantly, it’s going to waste several months of your precious time.
The Two-Week “Check-In” Rule
Regardless whom you submit your screenplay or finished film to, whether it’s an agent, manager, production company, distributor, or any other industry type that has the power to change your tax bracket virtually overnight, you need to give them two weeks to review the material before you call or email them to check in on your project’s status. Calling in within a few days after your will piss them off, and waiting a few months to call will make them think you’re not serious about your project. That’s why a call two-weeks after you submit the material is a perfect time frame to wait.
However, if the place you submitted to hasn’t called you back within two-weeks, that usually means one of a few things:
a) They haven’t reviewed your material (usually the case).
b) They reviewed your material, but passed on it.
Either way, be very gracious when you contact them to check in. For example, use phrases like, “I’m sure you’re super-busy, but I was wondering if you’ve had a chance to review my material yet.” That approach will most likely endear them to you, and they will read your material sooner than they were planning to.
You also may want to ask them when you should check in with them again. Then, say true to that schedule. For example, if they ask you to call back in two to three weeks, a) make it three weeks, and b) when you do call in, remind them the date you last spoke to them and that they asked you to call in three weeks. That way, regardless of if they ultimately like your submission or not, they will like you, because you were so easy to deal with. Remember, gaining the reputation of someone who is easy to work with is virtually priceless, and is usually more valuable than the money that a deal could bring you.
The One-Week, Two-Week, Three Week, Investor Rule
In my fifteen years of producing independent film and television projects, more than a few financing trends have emerged. One such trend is the pattern in which motion picture investors part with their money.
Unless your potential investor tells you that he or she can’t invest for a specified amount of time (due to an upcoming sale of property, stock, inheritance, etc.) then the following guidelines usually apply. Actually, it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
(One-Week) – If your investor doesn’t give you a definite sign of interest within one-week, than he or she probably wont invest. Wishy-washy flip-flopping doesn’t count. So, if someone is willing to write a check for your film, then will alert you of his or her intention within seven days of your pitch.
(Two-Weeks) – If your investor doesn’t sign an investment term sheet, or at least provide you with signed paperwork confirming the they are an “accredited investor,” then again, they probably won’t invest.
(Three-Weeks) – If your investor doesn’t have a check ready for you within three-weeks, then you could wind up waiting three months or more before they ultimately say utter that ugly two-letter word that starts with “n” and ends with “o.” Remember, people who want to invest will do so quickly, so try not to get all tangled up in false hope when someone is not responding to you for an extended period of time. You’re better than that, and you certainly deserve better than that.
So, at the end of the day, the “waiting” shouldn’t be the hardest part of your careers, it should be the “shortest” part.
I thank each and every one of you for lending me your eyes once again, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week! As always, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.