The column in which I ask award-winning writer-producer Mark O’Toole the questions that have always bugged me.
Adam Zwar: Dear Mark, when I’m selling a script I understand the physics of a fast “yes” and a slow “no”. But is there such a think as a slow “yes”? And if there is, should I be wary of it?
Mark O’Toole: Great question Adam, I was pondering this exact thing this morning in the shower.
So. What is a slow “yes”? Well basically, it’s a “maybe” dressed up to sound like a “yes”. It’s role in the industry is to get you out of the meeting, off the phone, or out of the building with as little fuss and financial commitment as possible.
I know what you’re thinking Adam (I always know what you’re thinking), “how can I spot a fast ‘yes’ from a slow ‘yes’?” Easy Adam, the slow “yes” has a “but” after it, normally preceded by an ellipsis. It looks like this. “Yes… but…”
Can I use it in a sentence for you? Of course I can Adam.
“Yes… but we need to see if the big name we’re banking on will agree to do it.”
”Yes… but we need all the financing to fall into place.”
”Yes… but we need to make sure no one else has one of these about to go into production.”
”Yes… but I’m only saying this to get you out of the room and moving forward will pretend the word never crossed my lips AND I expect you to do the same.”
Get the picture?
To put it bluntly there are no slow “yeses”, only slow “noes” and regular “maybes”. The real “yes” is always quick - three letters, one syllable, and an exclamation mark. It looks this. “Yes!”
But here’s the thing Adam. Sometimes those slow “noes” and “maybes” turn into “yeses”. Times change, audiences change, trends change and executives change… or leave, or even die. Sometimes all three. And sometimes that thing you pitched before the pandemic isn't funny until afterwards - your idea isn’t recognised as genius until someone else makes a million dollars with a similar, not quite so clever idea, and the notetaker who was the only person in the room who really loved your idea ends up becoming the production executive who commissions it.
Lurking behind every slow “no” and regular “maybe” is a fast “yes”, just waiting for the right time to jump out and surprise you.
You just need to be ready for it Adam.