by Joanna D'Angelo

I was recently rejected for a TV show pitch by A&E.

My reaction to this was - WOW! You know you've really made it when the big boys reject you.

As many of you know I make my living as a writer.  Well, in addition to being a Super Nanny to my two darling Spiderman Jr. nephews whose current goal in life is to share their love of superheroes, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby Doo. But very recently my role has been relegated to Super Auntie status as they have a new nanny who is with them most of the time. That now gives me more time to devote to my writing.  I have never, ever found it easy to write fiction but factual is another matter - of the TV variety that is.  Factual programming is a very broad term that covers everything from Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs to National Geographic's Dog Whisperer to MTV's Jersey Shore.  Although Jersey Shore has also been called a "reality show" - and I use the term loosely.

TV is a very fickle business and very, very tough to work in.  One thing I've learned is that you absolutely cannot rely on one idea. Remember the line in Glengarry Glen Ross "A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Well, in TV it's Always Be Pitching.

When my exec. producer told me she pitched one of my show ideas to A and E at a recent conference -  I was excited. A and E has become a big network for factual programming (Dog the Bounty Hunter and Hoarders - which is the top-rated show on A and E) in addition to the fact that it gets healthy audience numbers for its continuous loop of CSI and The Sopranos.

The acquisitions executive who took the pitch liked the idea and promised to get back to us soon with an answer.  As an aside - one thing I love about pitching to American nets is that they're very quick with a turn-around response to a pitch - either they'll tell you right then and there if it's going to work for them or not - or they get back to you soon after.  Canadian broadcasters on the other hand don't always do that - maybe it's the nicey nice thing we have up here.  To be honest - I prefer bluntness - because then I can move on and spend my time doing something more productive rather than waiting in limbo.

Back to my story - the A and E guy got in touch with my producer about a week later and said - that a colleague of his had just pitched an idea in the same field and was turned down flat by the head honchos so it would be a no-go for my idea.  He said it had to do with branding more than anything else - that my idea didn't quite fit their brand.  Funny how that works.  He told my producer a story about A and E turning down Ice Road Truckers when it was first pitched to them - because it didn't fit their brand.  Evidently - History Channel - which was in the process of re-branding - thought it was a good fit and bought it and it became a big hit for them.

You might think I'm a bit loopy for not being devastated by this rejection - well - I'm not insane - I was upset but I don't allow myself to wallow any more (well no more than a very brief, tiny window ;)  I've been rejected more times than I can count - from every major and specialty Canadian broadcaster and from several specialty American nets and a few international ones.  It's very true that rejection is part of being a writer.  I believe it makes you stronger and more determined.  It also keeps you humble and more appreciative when something does click.

I also believe that broadcasters and producers take you more seriously if you've pitched and been rejected at least a few times.  I've heard stories from many published writers who went from getting form rejection letters to very detailed notes with their rejection letters the closer they got to being published.  If I were to obsesses about it too much - then my creativity button would switch off and I wouldn't be able to come up with anything for a while. So, that's another reason why I don't waste energy on rejections - because it triggers a kind of creative paralysis in me. Besides - being the Pollyanna that I am - I prefer to look on the bright side - I now have a contact at A and E who liked one of my ideas.

I greatly admire writers and creative people in general who really try to make a go of it in their field because we are always "out there" being judged and critiqued.  That's not easy on anyone's self-esteem. I know successful, multi-published writers who still feel that terrible sting - when one of their proposals is turned down.  Okay, maybe we are kinda crazy.  But I will leave you with this - I know a lovely husband and wife writing team who took 12 years to get published - and now they make their living at it.  That takes a certain kind of strength and perseverance. I hope I have that in me as well.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.


  1. I understand your reaction, Jojo. But the important thing is, you focused on the positive. They liked your idea! They gave it serious consideration. That's awesome!
    Rejection only means it wasn't right for them at this particular time. So keep that ball in play and punt it out there again. Keep volleying it back to the universe until it sticks.
    We'll be here to cheer you on!

  2. Yes, congrats on being in the game - woo hoo! But this is all such a crazy business, isn't? But no matter what field you're in, we have to keep a sense of humor to survive. Work is just ridiculous these days but I have to find the humor in it all. My pastor FIL said if he didn't keep his sense of humor, he'd go mad! But about rejections, not always remembering to keep my sense of humor, but I am flattered when the big guys reject me, too. WTG!

  3. Hi Cate - thanks so much - I agree with you - in fact we're re-working a few things about the proposal and finding a possible host to re-pitch to another net. So onward and upward. ;)

  4. kathy - ha! I know - in a weird way it is flattering getting rejected by the big boys. ;) And as for your Pastor - that's terrific - I'm sure Sunday services are a hoot in your neck of the woods. ;) Thanks so much!

  5. Onward and upward is right, Jo! It *is* kind of exciting to be rejected by A&E--well, because they were at least interested! I'm sure you'll re-tweak the proposal and maybe even come up with a better idea for the A&E brand. Sending you oodles of luck!

  6. Sorry about the rejection but I do hear you about the positive perspective. To have the opportunity to pitch to The Big Guys means your ideas have merit! Better to be close to the finish line than on the stands saying, "I could run that race easy," while your beer-swilling seat partner rolls eyes. *grin*

    It's awesome that you're out there pitching those ideas and making things happen. You're a dynamo and at some point the right idea will click with the right person and BOOM!

    The Door Is Open!

    Of course, I can't even think of pitching without remembering the Seinfeld episodes where they're pitching a show idea to NBC (mimicking what they did originally), "It's a show about... Nothing."

    (Picture Constanza hands up, palms out, spreading his hands in emphasis.)

    Of course, Seinfeld went on to be a major hit and the original Constanza, Larry David, has a hit show of his own. Just goes to show that your motto is true: ABP!

    Always Be Pitching!!

    Great article, JoJo!!!


  7. Thanks Kayla - I'm actually working on a re-tweak of the proposal for another broadcaster so we'll see. ;)

  8. Ha! Thanks Chiron - love that ep. of Seinfeld - "everyone is doing something. we'll do nothing!". clever idea! ;)

  9. Joanna - I'm totally impressed that you now have a contact at A&E! I'm McLuvvin that.


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