As a beginning filmmaker, nothing is more thrilling than getting a phone call saying that someone is interested in working with you. There is a spark of excitement that you are making it in the industry. You have the possibility of landing a job that you really want. Then, nothing.
This is a painful and unfortunate reality of the film industry. Sometimes, a phone call is just a phone call that leads to nothing. This is a hard reality that Air screenwriter Alex Convery has learned throughout his career.
Convery has been a long-rising star in Hollywood, with three of his original screenplays earning spots on the Black List, including the screenplay for Air (which was titled Air Jordan back in 2021). Convery is no stranger to phone calls that never panned out, which is why he approached Air’s future with skepticism.
'Air'Credit: Amazon Studios“From time to time you hear, ‘This big actor read the script, they’re interested, they want to do it,’ and when I was first breaking in, it was like, ‘Holy shit, I made it!’” Convery told IndieWire. “Then you learn the way Hollywood works, [which is] you never hear that they’re not doing it, you just never hear about it again.”
Convery continued, saying, “If you ride the emotional ups and downs of every call you get from your agent about talent interested in your script, you’ll go nuts. I knew who the script was out to, and you assume these are our five crazy names and they’re all going to pass and then we’ll move on.”
This is a hard truth that everyone in the industry faces when they are trying to make a name for themselves. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and people don’t seem to want to break your spirit by saying “no.” Instead, they do something that somehow feels worse: they ghost you.
It’s an aspect that might never go away during your career in the industry. Even acclaimed directors like Peter Jackson still ghosted from time to time.
There is a bright side to this reality. Sometimes, those nibbles turn into meetings, which could turn into something more.
When he got the call saying that he landed a meeting with Ben Affleck, Convery still approached the meeting with caution.
“Obviously it’s a call you want to get on something like this, but a movie can fall apart a million different times, so just because Ben wants to meet doesn’t mean the movie’s happening,” he said. “Just like you don’t get a call when people aren’t doing it, you also don’t get a follow-up call being like, ‘Yes, this is for sure, Ben’s doing it, paper signed.'”
Ben Affleck as Phil Knight in 'Air'Credit: Amazon StudiosOf course, Affleck did go through with the project, making it the first big production made by Affleck and Matt Damon’s company Artists Equity. It was the best outcome that Convery never expected from a screenplay he believed would be shot down in every way.
The world is full of possibilities that don’t always work out. As creatives in Hollywood, this is just another side of the coin that hurts our pride and egos, but shouldn’t define the type of work we want to create. Continue making the work you want to create, share it with those you want to work with and expect the best and worst of every situation.
Enjoy this rollercoaster as much as you can, but don't let it beat you down.