I've often said that I'm not the brightest guy in the room, so if I can tell I'm being handed bullshit, there's gotta be something wrong.
No, I'm not referring to the government's justification of soaring gas prices or the smoke screen of the Social Security issue -- that's another rant -- I'm talking about people in this business who try to bluff me and it's not funny any more. First and foremost, I've been in the so-called "indie filmmaking community" for about ten years now, in one form or another, generally as a journalist or a filmmaker. As a result, I've met a lot of people over the years (see my previous column titled "I know a lot of people..."). I know A-listers personally, B-listers -- keep going through the alphabet, I've met someone on every level.
So it's funny when I sit down with someone who either isn't in the business and wants to prove how "in" they are or thinks they're smarter than I am, and starts rattling off names of folks they can "put me in touch with".
Amy and I had a sit down with a large group of industry acquaintances once, and there was one woman who had recently begun her own cable-access television show in a suburb of Ohio. She was at one end of the table, while we were at the other with a potential producer (a friend of this woman's husband) talking about a movie we were trying to develop. Unbidden, she chirped up, "You need names to sell your movie. You know who I could put you in touch with for your movie? The Enigma."
The Enigma, for those who may not know, is a "freak" with the Jim Rose Sideshow (not sure if he still is or not, but he was at the time). He's covered head to toe with colorful "puzzle piece" tattoos. He's primarily green and has horns. He wasn't exactly right for the project we were talking about and Amy told her so. The woman ignored her and continued, "You'll have to pay him, though, and put him up. Might be as much as five thousand dollars, but he's really famous."
Later, the woman offered to put me in touch with a guy I'd known for years, someone I'd had at my house, hung out with, celebrated birthdays with, etc.
Moral: don't spout off until you do your homework.In this business, everyone knows everyone else.
I've come across would-be producers who try to work both ends of the street. One guy sent his model's portfolio to two different pin-up artists with identical cover letters insisting that the one had flipped over her and couldn't wait to paint her. He hadn't even bothered to check and see if the two artists even knew each other, despite the fact that the lived in the same city and were often billed together at comic book and media shows. Of course, they did know each other and giggled over the producer's lack of research while cheerfully tearing up the model's badly-shot 8x10s.
Moral: be careful who you trust your career to.
Some people are just trying to be friendly and helpful, while at the same time trying to prove to everyone around them just how important and in-the-know they are. I've been shopping The Resurrection Game around since before the first frame of film was shot. I know that it takes a lot of door-pounding to make the sale. To paraphrase Super Chicken, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it. It's no secret that I need help, but I need help from those who have been in the game longer and, quite frankly, who are smarter than me. Kids (regardless of age) who are new to the game and have never gone through the submission hell I'm currently in cannot help me. Of course, that doesn't stop the endless flow of message board and email advice I'm assailed with on a daily basis.
"You should go through (Studio X). I just talked to (one of their headliners) and s/he says they're really on the lookout for indie product right now."
I went to Studio X about eight months ago, since I met their founders/department heads/grand poohbahs at Chiller/Horrorfind/Wizardworld and they can't use The Resurrection Game at this time. Also, I've known (headliner/movie director/pop star since 1999 when their movie was first on the festival circuit and I saw the path he had to beat to land his movie there. Oh, and our movies are nothing alike. But thanks!"
"Tell you what you should do," said one guy whose movie wasn't even finished yet. "Send your movie over to Distributor Z, 'cause they just put out This Thing That Also Has Zombies In It, and they gave the director three commentaries, deleted scenes, etc. It's gonna be huge and that's what you should do."
"Oh, you mean I should take it to Joe Distributor, head of Distributor Z? Yeah, Joe called me last week to ask if This Thing That Also Has Zombies In It would be a good draw, since I reviewed it three years ago and knew the director so well. Joe Distributor needs a bunch of product to take to his wholesaler so they actually have a shot at getting into stores and off the internet, but that won't even happen until next year."
Giving advice is nice and helpful. But know what the fuck you're talking about before you go spouting off in a public forum to prove to everyone else what great street cred you have and how "In" you are. If you really are sincere about the advice, any salesman will tell you that it's all in how you make the opening argument: "Have you tried...?"
"Are you aware of...?"
"It might benefit you to try..."
Not: "Here's what you should do..."
Not: "Look, pal, you wanna get your movie out there..."
Because not only is that bad form, but it's bad poker face as well. Sooner or later you're going to get slapped down by someone not as nice as me (if that can be fathomed) who already knows Person A, B or C, and can tell you don't know shit from sunshine about the fairy tale you're unwinding.
Moral: know what the hell you're talking about or who you're talking about before you start spouting off what "should be done".
(That being said, if anyone has any real advice on what to do about this damned movie, please let me know. The first one of you bastards to send me a "here's what you should do" post will be hunted down and destroyed - and that means YOU, Henrique!)
...I now await this post to come back to bite me on the ass.