Drowning in bullshit

Sometimes I think the problem with the movie industry is it’s built on bullshit.

Writers are people who make up lies up for a living.

Actors are people who tell lies for a living.

Directors are people who imagine what the writers’ lies might look like for a living.

And producers bullshit everyone until the job’s done.

 

Producers’ bullshit can be the most complex, including such useful phrases as:

  1. “I’ve already got fifty percent of the financing.”
  2. “[INSERT MOVIE STAR HERE] has agreed to star in it.”
  3. “We’re thinking of moving in another direction.”
  4. “I respect your vision, but …”

Which loosely translate as:

  1. “I’ve got no money.”
  2. “No he hasn’t.”
  3. “You’re fired.”
  4. “You’re a twat. And you’re fired.”

This is all standard bullshit and merely serves to grease the creaky wheels of fragile egos. The producer knows it’s bullshit, everyone else knows it’s bullshit … and the world keeps on ticking. It’s fine.

There are other bullshitters though, usually confined to the low-budget end of the market, who genuinely believe other people believe their bullshit. And people do … but only at the low-budget end of the market.

Some of them, you can’t really blame for making shit up. They think they’re advancing their career. Okay, so actually they’re creating a situation whereby people are laughing at them; but to anyone who doesn’t really know any better they seem persuasively impressive.

A few case studies:

CASE NUMBER ONE

This guy once told everyone he was writing the next instalment of a major franchise. Actually he’d pestered the production company about a script he’d written until they agreed to read it … and quickly passed, on the grounds it was shit.

Still, for a week or two, he went around telling everyone who would listen that he was writing the next film and the production company had asked him to submit a script. A harmless little white lie … one which gained considerable traction on the Internet and made him momentarily famous (or as famous as an un-produced writer can be).

The end result?

People at the low-budget end of the business think he’s an amazing writer … are excited to work with him on their £25,000 epic … and are usually very disappointed when they find out he’s actually not very good.

Everyone else knows he’s a bit shit and it’s all a bit of a joke.

CASE NUMBER TWO

A sound guy who claims to have worked on several major blockbusters and actually has several major blockbuster credits on his IMDb page … all fake, all added by him.

Truth be told, he’s fucking awful at his job. No, that’s not fair. He’s really good at 50% of his job, he can capture sound beautifully … he just doesn’t seem to know what to do with it afterwards.

On one shoot, the production team thought it would be funny to add a few new blockbuster credits to his IMDb page. When this guy came in the next morning, he immediately began bragging about his involvement in these films … to the people who’d made it up.

He also claims to know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, the recipe for KFC’s special herbs and spices and to have been involved in the Coke/New Coke scandal … despite having been too young and living in the wrong country at the time.

CASE NUMBER THREE

A producer whom, thankfully, I’ve only half-worked with once who genuinely thinks he’s the forefront of the British film industry. He gets half-involved in dozens of films … and pisses off everyone every time. He’s so massively incompetent and incapable he gets banned from sets, falls out with actors, directors, writers … everyone, to be honest. He fires people who tell him (truthfully) that something is impossible on a given budget, embezzles massive amounts of the budget every time and really believes he’s incredibly sly and getting away with it.

No one ever works with him twice, people feel sorry for anyone who’s worked with him once and anyone who asks around gets warned to run away. Fast.

How does he keep getting half-involved in new projects? Because there is a constant stream of new writers and directors entering the industry and he’s the troll under the low-budget bridge they have to pass over.

Those are all people whose bullshit traps them at a low-budget level. They seem really impressive … until you actually work with them and the truth comes out. The people who know the truth move onwards to better things (or get demoralised and drop out of the industry) meaning everyone above a certain level recognises them for what they are: chancing bullshitters.

In a way, this isn’t their fault. They achieve results, just limited ones because their lies trap them. One day, hopefully, they’ll realise they’re not doing themselves any favours, stop bullshitting, learn to do their fucking jobs properly … and gain some credibility and respect.

Other people though … I have to wonder what their thought process actually is. Take …

CASE NUMBER FOUR

… for example.

A … well, nothing.

He’s not anything in the movie industry; but he told a friend of mine he had five million to invest in a film if he could have a starring role. Contracts were signed, a story was developed specifically to work with his (presumed) lack of acting ability and other, bigger stars were approached to pack around him and make him look good … but of course, he didn’t have five million to invest.

He didn’t have five pence to invest, it was all bullshit.

Let’s be clear about this, he didn’t have slightly less money than he said on a film he’d promised to part-finance. Lots of people do that, hoping the film will get so far down the road before anyone notices that someone else will be forced to find the missing cash or write off all the investment so far.

No.

He, the sole financier, had no money.

At all.

Zero pesetas.

What did he think was going to happen? Everyone was going to work for free until the movie made a profit? Fair enough, movies can be made on a wing and a prayer … but only when everyone involved knows the score, or there’s at least a tiny bit of budget to get the ball rolling.

But nothing? Nothing at all?

Mental.

What’s worse is he’s done it several times. He’s a serial bullshitter without any hope of actually achieving anything. What’s the fucking point? He doesn’t even get to work at the low-budget end because he’s so fucking stupid nothing actually gets made.

Everyone bullshits in the beginning, and I mean everyone. Whether it’s padding their CV or claiming their first paid job is more than £50 and a tube of Smarties. Most people omit to mention their day job, or that they actually live nowhere near London and attend considerably fewer meetings than they profess to … but that kind of bullshit isn’t really entrapping. It’s self-promotion, selling yourself.

McDonald’s don’t fill their adverts full of fat people looking miserably at the difference between their rock hard, four-hour-old chicken nuggets and the succulent posters on the wall behind them, so why would you fill pages of the Internet with complaints about no one wanting to work with you, not getting paid, not winning competitions and how depressed and bitter the whole thing makes you?

But at some point the bullshit has to stop.

I de-bullshitted my CV a few years back because … well, it just wasn’t necessary any more. There are enough genuine credits (of vastly varying quality) to fill a couple of pages – it’s enough.

It doesn’t take much effort to work out a guy who’s had nothing produced, but ten scripts optioned by the same production company, one he co-owns with his brother probably isn’t quite as industry-respected as he bangs on about all the fucking time in every fucking forum he can find.

So just, knock it off.

Reign the bullshit in, people. Please, for the love of my left testicle, let’s keep it to a tolerable, background whiff.

Okay?

Thank you.

Right, I’m off to my fabulous Secret Writing Island in the Caribbean to write Mission: Impossible 5, straight after dinner with the Illuminati so we can plan out the next phase of our world domination. Oh, by the way, I just won six million on a scratch card and want to fund a movie where I get to repeatedly punch producers in the nuts for an hour and a half – any takers?

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Categories: Industry Musings, Rants | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Drowning in bullshit

  1. I wrote this a few days ago.

    Ironically, today I learnt a producer on a project I’m working on isn’t actually a producer – he’s a camera thief. He lies his ways onto productions solely to steal equipment and … actually, who fucking knows?

    What a bullshitting cunt.

  2. andrew

    Working in a blue collar profession, bullshit works in a different way. The bullshitting cunts I work with lie about living in large detached houses (disproved on the land registry website), previously being in special ops in the army (despite having no army number and having degrees in subjects they know little or nothing about. And of course, the boasts of casual violence in which they’ve waded in to a situation, the outcome being that somehow they are a “hero”.

    • I’ve met a few of the special ops ones. If all of them actually did what they claim then the special forces in the UK must outnumber the regular army by ten to one.

  3. A friend suggested this post to me. Now I’m half inclined to fly over the ocean and meet you in person, just to tell you how much I like this post.

  4. Sue Denim

    This is a great post. I recognise a lot of truth in it. Sadly, however, I don’t see the situation changing anytime soon.

    Some of my pet peeves in the “industry” (meaning “low budget UK indies”):

    1)The guy who likes to claim he’s a successful producer. Reality is he has only produced no-budget stuff – shot on video shorts etc. He has got credits on a couple of “real” films to give his cv (or imdb page) some credibility. He paid for those producer credits. He has no experience in the trenches of real film making. He pretends he does. He resents anyone whose real experience might call his bluff.

    2) “Producers” who advertise for crew/HODs claiming their film has a budget and a start date. The budget is just wishful thinking – there is no finance in place and noone has actually costed the script. The start date is just wishful thinking, nothing more. It keeps getting pushed back because the financing just can’t be found, They don’t want to pay for any prep work: “Can you break down our latest draft/ attend a read through/ shoot a teaser for us???” They aren’t keen on paying professionals for work.

    3) The “can you do us a favour this one time” producer. We’ve all heard it at some stage. “Can you reduce your fee/work for peanuts this one time? In future I’ll always hire you and make it up to you”. Happily I can say some producers/production managers have been true to their word…but when that happens it surprises me. Why? Well most folks just use you and on the next job, rather than ask for a favour again (or pay a proper rate) make their BS promises to some other schmuck.

  5. I think I know two of these people.. I have my suspicions about a third but Case Number 4 is some really ballsy bullshit. Nice post!

  6. Pingback: 2012 « The Jobbing Scriptwriter

  7. Ted

    Dear Phill,

    Thanks for taking the trouble to chronicle your epic swim through the sewage in which I also swim.

    I discovered the blog when googling “producers bullshit”. Very pleased to see concise language applied to the predicament of scriptwriters.

    I’m currently living in act II of Citizen Kane it seems, playing the part of Jeb Leyland with his crumpled up sheet of Charles Foster Kane’s ‘Declaration of Principles” after Kane’s entered fully into his delusional rampage. This is the peril of co-existence as the creator of a kids’ TV series with a startup production company run by a Steve Jobs wannabe but without the talent. He’s already bought his Bentley to drive the six minute walk to the office in Camden, and we’re only mid-production.

    What you say about the foundation of bullshit underpinning sho-biz well answers the vexatious question as to why this industry provides just the right brewing conditions for this kind of behaviour to emerge. Perhaps it’s the same algorithm that gives rise to the cockroach in an otherwise beautiful ecosystem.

    I shall dive deeper in your blog in near future, it might just keep my ranting at bay and preserve the sanity of my long-suffering family and friends.

    Ted

  8. Pingback: 2012 | The Jobbing Scriptwriter

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