As the recipient of many a rejection letter, I’ve gotten pretty good at recognizing when I’m about to get the heave-ho.
The language is always polite and supportive, but the message is still the same: scram.
And yet I always read every word on the outside chance that the latest letter may be the one that says “Yes” after all those “Nos.”
I try to stay positive, I really do, but when I saw an email from Project Greenlight in my inbox the other day, I got that old familiar feeling.
Project Greenlight is a TV show produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, among others, that gives first-time filmmakers a chance to direct a feature film.
The deadline to submit entries came up in August, on the very night before I was going to fly out to Colorado. I was sorely tempted to flag it: I had too much to do, my entry wasn’t top notch, I'm too old, and, the old standby—I didn’t have a chance in hell of winning.
Excuses? I’ve got a million of ‘em.
But this time I decided to rewrite that script. I’m always letting things slip by, saying I’ll get it to later, but never admitting to myself that “later” has this sneaky way of turning into “never.”
I had a video I had shot in my director’s class at the School of Visual Arts class two summers ago. (Jesus, already?)
It was crudely edited, with some rough spots that made my wince, but the idea of not submitting anything made me wince even more. Screw it. The dialog was good, if I say so myself, and the two actors in the scene gave off a lot of energy.
A few clicks later I was officially in the running and ready to enjoy my vacation.
I had pretty much forgotten about the submission until I got that email. Perhaps I was a finalist in the competition, the first step in the march towards wealth and fame. I moved my cursor over the message, paused a second, and then clicked.
“On behalf of the Project Greenlight team,” the email began, “we would like to thank you for submitting your film to our director's contest.”
Okay, so far, so good…
Here it comes…
“--your submission did not make it to the Top 200,” the message continued. “With thousands of videos submitted for consideration, the competition was fierce.”
I wasn’t feeling particularly fierce at that moment. I mean, hell, I couldn’t even crack the Top 200?
“Please know that your film was carefully considered by the Greenlight community, where each video was viewed and judged.”
I’ll take your word for it. Now I'm going to carefully consider if I want to jump off the Chrysler Building.
“Do not be discouraged by this decision,” the email concluded. “Project Greenlight was created for you, so please continue to support the community so we can hold more contests like this one.”
Discouraged, me? It's just one more addition to add to the growing ranks of rejection.
And at least I made the effort to enter the competition, instead of coming up with an excuse.
As I soon as read the last line my phone rang. I thought it was Matt Damon calling up to apologize for the mistake and to assure me that the limo was on its way to take me to the studio.
But this guy didn’t sound at all like Good Will Hunting.
“You’ve just won a fabulous cruise to Bermuda,” a creepily jovial robovoice informed me.
What's this--a consolation prize? Your dreams of becoming a famous filmmaker have been dashed to itty bits and pieces, but here’s this lovely parting gift.
“Please press one...”
I hung up the phone. Please don’t be discouraged, but I’m not interested in your bogus cruise.
Unless Matt Damon’s going…