This column is written by Sally Hassan, the creator of Ghetto Nerd Girl. I talk about how to get through the vital steps of making a web series as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
Don't let this hard exterior fool you. I'm sensitive AF.
I have to deal with rejection more often than I’d like to admit. This can happen during any phase of production, but I am focusing on the aftermath of completing your series. You put the work in and made something out of nothing. Congratulate yourself! But by all means, know that the hard part is not over. In many ways, it has only begun.
Your project is out there in the endless void we call the Internet. Your precious series is being exposed to random people out there. It’s an exciting yet terrifying feeling. The best case scenario is you find a wonderful audience online and form a small niche or community. On the other hand, you could get haters or even worse completely ignored. I say being ignored is worse because there is truth to the old adage, “Haters make you famous.” I kid you not. Yes, I know I’m ridiculous.
The reactions to your series will open up a whole new world for you. Use it to your advantage and interact with fans. Haters, not so much. Prepare yourself to deal with all types of criticism. Let it fall off of your shoulders. Unless of course, you value someone’s opinion. Most should be taken with a grain of salt though. Your web series, your call.
I do however value the opinions of film festival organizers. I consider them to be highly skilled in finding web series gems. Just keep in mind that they are a business and with every submission, it’s a gamble. Do your research and may the odds be in your favor. I’m not going to tell you how to choose festivals because there are plenty of posts on Stareable explaining how to do so.
The Waiting Game
After submitting I try to stay away from Film Freeway to refrain from checking the bloody submission status. I don’t even like announcing submissions anymore because I don’t want to deal with the embarrassment of publicly being rejected. It hurts. You hope you put your hard earned dollars to good use but there’s no guarantee. Then the email finally arrives stating your project status has changed. Your heart drops. If you get in, it’s a no-brainer. Time to publicize and celebrate. But if you don’t it can be hard to face the facts. I know it took me a lot of rejections before I figured out how to persevere in spite of it. I’m still working on it.
It’s okay to feel anger, sadness or disappointment, but don’t beat yourself up too much. I feel it all at once and it can get quite overwhelming. I’ll think, “Did they even watch my series? There’s no way they did if they rejected me.” Eventually, I’ll come back to reality. Not everyone is going to fall in love with your series and that’s okay. Most of us didn’t make it for everyone. We made it for people like us, which sometimes can be hard to find. Let’s face it, there are a lot of freakin’ amazing web series out there so if you lose this one dust yourself off and try again. Like Aaliyah says.
Why is Rejection Rarely Spoken About?
I notice that people get uncomfortable when I talk about the not so great moments making my web series, especially the rejection stories. Can someone explain why? It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Nothing in this world worth having is easy. Yes, it’s great to celebrate accomplishments, but your real supporters will be there when everyone turns their back on you. That’s worth remembering.
Rejection is a necessary evil in this industry. The harsh reality is that the odds are not in our favor. The good news is that most people who are successful know rejection oh so well. They felt what we do right now, and they pushed through it anyway. I’m thinking this means if I don’t give up I gotta succeed eventually right? The real question is what does that mean to you?
That time we got published in Asbury Park Press! Made all the rejections worth it.
Getting Over It
You took a risk and it didn’t work out. Pat yourself on the back for taking a chance. Rejection does not define you. You are not alone, and this feeling will pass. Or maybe you’re angry and it just won’t go away. I’ve been there. Use that energy to work your butt off and be better. That’s how Season 2 became a thing for me. I wanted to prove that I’m not going anywhere whether people like it or not. Make them regret overlooking your series. Yes, I’m comparing this to that moment when you make your ex-boyfriend (or ex-girlfriend!) regret (s)he dumped you. Same premise.
Although you were dismissed they cannot take away your accomplishments. You still have those who believe in you, your team, and your audience. Lean on that support system. If you got this far through my emotional rant here are my tips to get out of the rejection rut.
Some of my wonderful GNG team members
1.) Emote - Allow yourself to feel and let it all out. Channel it into something productive if you can. We artists tend to be pretty good at that.
2.) Don’t Do It Alone - While I do not recommend telling the whole team each and every time you get rejected, you should have an ally or two. Someone you can confide in within the team when you need to vent. It helps if they’re someone who can make you laugh or lift up your spirits. Those people are invaluable.
3.) Don’t Run - I have a tendency of temporarily hiding or ignoring my responsibilities when things get tough. It’s a bad habit. This is a good time to remind yourself why you began this journey in the first place.
4.) Get Out There - I like to compare this to job interviews. When you’re no longer considered for a position it sucks, but you don’t stop there. You gotta eat. Stay hungry for success in your series the same way.
I’m still a work in progress when it comes to handling rejection. I wish more people would talk about it though. We shouldn’t have to suffer alone. I’m hoping I’m not the only dramatic one out there. Does any rejection stick out in your mind as a possible end all during your web series journey? How did you move on from it? Let’s talk! If I ever wanted to know your thoughts on a topic it’s this one. I’m here for you!