Logo Free Spirits Film

Columns / The rejection letter

by Jaap Mees

One thing we, as filmmakers and producers, all have to deal with is the dreaded rejection letter. Essentially there are three sorts of rejection letters. First the blunt one, which reads something like: unfortunately….we are not considering funding for this project. It often means the project needs much more developing work or you have send it to the wrong person. Like sending a Bridget Jones’ Diary script to people who finance Ken Loach films for instance. Then you have the encouraging rejection letter, which uses the inevitable phrase: please don’t hesitate to send us any future projects. This means they like something in your style and work, but are not so keen on this particular proposal.

The most frustrating rejection letters are when they praise your work to Heaven, but still turn it down politely. I have a recent example from my own experience of this. Channel 4 wrote after sending in my documentary Off The Beaten Track: "It’s a very good film and I enjoyed it enormously, but sadly I have not been able to find a slot for it."

My philosophy is to look at the things that work, not at the rejections. When you send your film to ten film festivals and two accept it, then focus on those two and forget the rest. Otherwise you become a bitter complainer, a waist of energy. Another way not to get demoralised by it is to turn it round and let it increase your fighting spirit: you reject this project, I will prove you wrong!

At last my Top Three films of 2001 are: A One and A Two by Edward Yang; Amores Perros by Alejandro Gonzales Inarittu and Serbian Epics by Pawel Pawlikowski.