Dealing with No: 7 Reasons Your Film Project Got Rejected



We’ve all heard the Cinderella stories about rejection. How J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by a dozen publishers. How Steven Spielberg couldn’t get into film school, even after three attempts. The former is now worth half a billion dollars and the latter twice as much. You, however, are probably still just reeling from the latest round of “thanks, but no thanks”.

The film and entertainment industry is built on rejection, and some even claim that those who achieve their dream do so through attrition. That’s a bit harsh, but it’s certainly true that the industry is no place for the thin-skinned. Getting your project to production takes determination, coupled with the ability to dispassionately analyze each and every rejection. They all said “no” for a reason. The only way you’re going to move ahead is by figuring out why.

Here are the top 7 reasons pitches to investors fail to secure funding.

1. You Didn’t Have a Plan

You need to give investors something in return for their financial backing. That means presenting a business plan that clearly conveys what you’re offering, how you plan to deliver, and what it’s going to cost to get there. Nobody is going to put money behind a dream only you can clearly envision.

2. Right Project, Wrong Target

Many projects are rejected not because they aren’t worthy, but because they were pitched to the wrong audience. Never take a scattergun approach to finding investors. You need to hone in on the individual or group that can connect with your project on a visceral level, whether it be through the subject, location, genre, or special interest.

3. You Lack Credentials

If you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to answer questions from investors about past experience and achievements. They need to be reassured you’re up to the task and that they have a reasonable expectation of return. Sometimes, that means teaming up with a more experienced filmmaker until you can stand on your own credentials.

4. No Face-to- Face

There’s just no substitute for a face-to- face meeting. Always ensure you don’t give away the show in an email or phone conversation as the goal is to get a live opportunity to make your pitch. Your first contact should impart just enough information to intrigue your potential investors and elicit an invitation to meet them in person.

5. Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Sometimes, the stars simply don’t align. Your pitch might have been well prepared, persuasive and engaging, but your potential investors were just looking for something else. If you get the sense that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be confident that with perseverance, everything will come together on another day.

6. Too Much Competition

Putting considerable effort into developing your own leads will pay off when it comes to beating the competition. There are thousands of hungry young filmmakers out there, and following each other around the same well-worn circuit makes it exceedingly difficult to stand out. Avoid the “due to the high volume of submissions…” rejections by creating your own list of potential investors.

7. You Can Do Better

When all else fails you may want to consider that this particular project just isn’t “the one”. If your targeted investors have taken the time to explain their decision, you need to pay attention to those comments. Letting go of one idea and coming up with another can be the hardest part of the creative process, but sometimes it’s the only way to move onto a project that will get funded.

By making the necessary adjustments from the lessons you learn in being rejected, you’re going to perfect the art of the pitch. And eventually, someone will say “yes”.

  • 112