Why No One Wants To Tell You No

Carole Insider Tip

When your calls go unreturned, or you get strung along with promises of they’ll “get to it,” but they never do, it can be so frustrating that I’d understand if you wanted to quit.

Let me tell you what’s really going on.

This is a creative industry. Writers, directors, producers and actors like you, pour your heart and soul into your work. When you create a script, film, or TV show, it can take months or years of your life. Putting it out into the world takes immense courage and a willingness to be vulnerable.

If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter honest, but kind, straight-shooters who appreciate your hard work enough to tell you what they really think– for better or worse. But sadly, that’s often the exception and, instead, you get crickets.

Why is it so hard to get a simple answer?

Here are three reasons no one in the entertainment industry wants to be the bearer of bad news:

  • They didn’t like your work, and don’t want to deal with the prospect of you being hurt, angry, or disappointed – so they avoid you.
  • If someone can escape giving you a concrete “no,” they never have to worry about pissing you off, in case they need you later.
  • No one wants to be “that person.” The guy who rejected a project or an artist who went on to have a stellar career. A TV exec once told Vince Gilligan Breaking Bad was the worst idea for a television series he’d ever heard. Try and live that down.

So yeah, it sucks to feel invisible. That’s why people say, “the second best answer in show business is a quick ‘no.’” If you have to get a rejection, that’s what I wish for you. But if it doesn’t happen that way, try not to let it stop you. You are not alone.

Bonus Inside Hollywood Tip: The only thing harder than saying “no” in Hollywood, is saying “yes.”

Here’s why:

  • If someone says “yes,”and their boss passes, they risk looking stupid.
  • If someone “falls on their sword” for a project they love, and convince their boss to say yes to it, but it fails, they will be blamed and could lose their job.
  • Even at the highest levels, those with power to “greenlight” projects put their career at risk every time they say “yes.” Hollywood productions cost millions of dollars; what if they got it wrong?
  • This is a business of meteoric successes and colossal failures. No one wants to fall into the second category. The scary truth is it’s all subjective, so it’s easier to be safe and not say “yes,” than risk having your box office flop/ratings disaster reported on Deadline Hollywood for all the world to see.

The best thing I can tell you is don’t give up, keep trying. As ice hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, once said:

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

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About Carole

Director of WGA’s Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to break in, move up and navigate the business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and make your mark in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, including her Virtual Course: “Hollywood Bootcamp: How to Get Your First (or Next) Job in Entertainment,” Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them blast past barriers and take their careers to the next level.