3 Ways To Reject Rejection

By Elliot Grove

Being confronted with a litany of rejection is one of the consequences of choosing a career in the creative industries, especially and specifically, the film industry. If I had a dollar for every time I had someone or some body say 'no' to me, I'd be extremely well off.

Learning how to deal with rejection is probably on of the big life lessons on needs to learn in order to become a success, and a counter-intuitive lesson at that.

Raindance Film Festival Let me explain:

Today, August 2nd 2011, Raindance received it's 29th rejection letter from a civic funding body, in this case, the BFI's Transition Fund. The transition fund was set up, apparently, to help small arts organisations survive the loss of state or private funding. Lord knows how sponsorship has fallen for arts organisations everywhere.

Wow. Were we surprised.

In response I sent the following email to Amanda Neville, the lovely Chair of the BFI, and a regular attendee of Raindance:

Hi Amanda
Hope you are well.
   How gut-wrenchingly disappointing to receive this 'technically correct' but morally deficient decline from the Transition Fund.
   I'm really at my wit's end. This is the 29th Festival funding application to UK bodies that has been turned down since 2001. What am I doing wrong?
   I still have number 30 out with Skillset. I hope they turn that down too - great excuse to have a Truly Independent Film Party!
   Now, what about that long overdue coffee?

It's too early to tell whether or not Amanda will get back to me for that long awaited coffeee (we have had several scheduled and cancelled since before Cannes).

Watch this space.

3 Ways To Reject Rejection

Raindance Film Courses Work1. Don't take it personally

This is a toughie, because it's easier said than done. For example, in Amanda Neville's case, she probably has little if any say in who gets the dosh. Sure, she has complimented me many times about the festival and my body of work at Raindance the past 20 years, but in the end the decision won't have been hers.

Taking it personally that Amanda of the BFI hates me because her organisation turned Raindance down yet again isn't going to do me or Raindance any good. And isn't true, I am certain.

On top of that, every moment I spend taking rejection personally means I can't move on - and I might end up feeling sorry for myself. When that happens no doctor in the world can cure you.

Also, avoid the self righteous type of response as in: 'Dear Father: Forgive Amanda and all at the BFI for they know not what they do.'

2. Don't hold grudges

I have a close friend in LA who carries around a little leather bound pocketbook which is divided into two: The front for people that have helped him, the back is a list of people who have done him over and for whom he seeks retribution. The front half has a dozen or so names, the second half is crammed full of names. The book reeks of negative karma, and all he thinks about is revenge.

Not only does this fill you with a negative energy, it jeapordises future working relationships with those people. Just because you've been rejected once, doesn't mean they've rejected the idea of working with you forever. If you get angry or short with them the next time you see them though, what are the chances that they'll come back to you when they've got something else on the table?

One tactic might be to remind people who have turned you down that you're still around, and happy to talk with a simple or fun card or letter opening with:

Dear Amanda [of the BFI]
I write to formally decline your kind offer of non-assistance and invite you to reconsider your position.

Or, words to that effect.

Reminds me is a strange way of the tragic life of Amy Winehouse. Julian Chapelle, the Festival Producer visited her house in Camden over the weekend where her square was filled with mourners.

On the pavement he saw the grafitti: Rehab is for quitters.

3. Treat rejection as a challenging creative opportunity

It could be that being turned down for something is in fact the best thing that ever happened to you. It could be a blessing in disguise.

Take Raindance for example. We have been turned down 29 times for government funding. In 20 years we have never had a dime. We've had to threaten government funded organisations for plagarising us, we've seen carefully considered and prepared applications left unopened on civil servants desks and just about everything in between.

Which means that we are truly independent, unlike other British film organisations. It also has meant that we have had to survive by our wits. It is this that has pushed us into the forefront of independent film in Britain or Europe, but the world. Our social media presence is the 2nd largest in Briain, after the funded BFI! Isn't that amazing. And Variety magazine calls Raidance one of the top must see 50 film festivals of the year.

Now how did that happen without the milk from the government tit?

Because we know that to survive we have to think by our wits, have to constantly reinvent ourselves and constantly ask whether or not our plans and ideas are commercially successful.

So, thank you very much Amanda Neville and the BFI. You have saved Raindance yet again.

Quitters never win. Winners never quit.

Your Comments Please

Thank you for posting this article. It is insightful and encouraging.
Kathy Savage


Dear Elliot,
I really enjoyed reading this article. It made me laugh, and made me feel good. I have just gone through a frustrating couple of weeks. But this article has reminded me all about "momentum", as well as "mindset".
Thanks for this and best wishes,
Stuart Sterling


A great article, it's nice to know that I am not the only person who succumbs to the dreaded not for us response letter. As Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption) once said, now I'll send 2 letters a week. Persistence is key in the creative industry.

Andrew C. Tanner (struggling Film Maker)


Dear Raindance,

Very much enjoyed Elliot's `3 Ways Reject Rejection`.   Good advice for any filmmaker or anyone who is involved in independant filmmaking. 

Keep up the great work at Raindance!  I look forward to finding out if my short film `A Trauma Too Deep` gets into this years Raindance Film Festival or get rejected! Haha

Mark Forbes



I'm from Brazil, and my partners and I just got a rejection letter from a government funding over there. This article got in the best moment. Thank you for sharing your experience!

We shall never give up!

All the best,


"Take it as a sign of excellence Elliot, the day you get them to back you up might be the day you loose Raindance's wonderful edge! You made, with your bare hands, an amazing event that is now more significant than Edinburgh Film Fest (with all its backing), cant wait for the next edition! Never the less I do understand your frustration at this and im sure that many of us will be happy to sign a petition protesting against these absurd rejections of an event that actually has such relevance and importance in the UK."

Yoni Bentovim


If you would like to comment on this article, please click here

Casting Your Film

Learn about the casting process and the best ways to get the right actors for your production.

Tutors: Rory O'Donnell Venue: Raindance Film Centre
10 Craven Street, WC2N 5PE
Date: April 9 Duration: Single Eveninng
Time: 6:30pm - 9:30pm Price: £48

For Raindance Premium Members Discounts log into the Members Area

If You Liked This, You'll Really Like

Free article: How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
Watch independent shorts, features and documentaries on www.raindance.tv
Submission details to Raindance Film Festival
Visit us on Twitter for daily tips and updates

© 2011 Raindance Festivals Ltd.
Reproduction of this article without written permission is strictly forbidden. For information on reprint rights please email info@raindance.co.uk

3 Ways to Reject Rejection