How Movie Studios Rejected Scripts During the Silent-Film Era: A Cold, 17-Point Checklist Circa 1915


Born during the era of silent movies, the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company produced a series of Charlie Chaplin films in 1915, most notably including The TrampThe Essanay document above shows us one thing: It didn’t take long for the film industry to master the cold rejection letter. Filmmakers could pour their heart and soul into writing a script. And what did they get in return? A list of 17 possible reasons to reject a manuscript, with a deflating check mark next to a particular item. That’s it. No further explanation offered.

Essanay closed in 1925, probably to the delight of some. You can still find some of Essanay’s films in our collection of 65 Free Charlie Chaplin Films Online.

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via @tedgioia

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  • B K Bridgeworths says:

    Think of how many scripts a studio would receive at the dawn of the movie industry. It’s so new that everyone wants to get in, so they write up everything they can think of.

    The studio probably had little choice but to create a form letter.

  • Robert Nagle says:

    I don’t think the form letter nature of the rejection is necessarily impersonal. It sticks to objective criticisms. Probably you can’t pin a rejection on a single reason, but it is helpful to know which reason is closest to the truth.

    It is hard to put into polite words a reason for rejection, so this list of reasons is helpful.

    About a decade ago I prepared “truthful rejection slips” for fiction writers. It provides helpful feedback while not trying to sugar coat it.

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