Producing for Indie is Tragedy and Comedy All at Once

Craigslist …or Craig’s Silt, as regards film production.  My professional film friends tell me they occasionally get paid film work from Craigslist.  I didn’t believe it, but, I decided to try it out.  I saw an ad saying, “Seeking all crew for a murder mystery documentary.”  No company name was provided, not a web site, not the name of the film, not even the name of a respondent: just an email address.

“Wow,” I thought, “must be some really important people needing to keep a low profile.”  (Not really; I didn’t think that at all.)

Sent my résumé.

Got a response, “You have been chosen to interview with Mr. Daniel.  Are you available between 3:00 and 4:00?”

Progress has been made: a name (first only, no last) was appended: Serena.  And in Mr. Daniel’s case (or so I thought at the time) a last name was provided.  Between the two of them, I have a full contact name!  Her first, his last.

However, Serena neglected to specify which day between 3:00 and 4:00.  After four (I kid you not) rounds of email, she managed to name not only a day and a time, but a place.  Public library.

Great; you guys don’t even have an office you can BORROW to make yourselves look legit.  Okay, indie is indie, and indie meets in the public library.  However, if you are so important as to need to hide your identity, you should have the bucks to rent an office.  N’est-ce pas?

Serena accidentally let slip the name of the production company in one of these emails, so I looked them up on the web.  There is a one-page site that purports to do something amazing for humankind.  “Write to us for more information.”

But, I cannot figure out what it is they do.  They have a paragraph for “products” and one for “services” but it still makes no sense.  No mention of film production on the web site.  And very noticeably, no last names and no contact info.

The big day arrives.  I’m at the library.  They are not.  They simply do not show up.

I am stupid, so I don’t drop the whole thing right now.  Instead, I go home and send an email inquiring where they were.  Serena responds, “I did not get your email confirming.”

Oh, really?  You got all my other emails.  Could it be, perhaps, that you are simply incompetent?  Of course, that could be good news for me, as they probably desperately need a production manager.  Or, at least, someone who can keep track of email.  Serena goes on, in the email, to request another meeting.  I, not as stupid as I seem, suggest a phone interview first.  I send her several time slots from which to choose.  No response.

Monday I’m in a meeting with a client.

  • My phone rings with a caller ID of “Restricted.”

  • Ten minutes later, I don’t pick up because the caller ID is “000-123-4567.”

You, dear reader, of course have guessed that it’s the mysterious Mr. Daniel of the mysterious non-existent film company.  The voicemail goes on to say that we had an appointment for an interview.  Well…no…we didn’t.  Your incompetent Serena never told me which time slot from my list she had chosen for the regal appointment.

Now, we must pause to wonder why I am wasting any further time.  I could be preparing for my performance in Amanda Becker’s “Tragedy,” budgeting my own short “Service Dogs” or re-writing my feature “Exit Strategy.”  I could be reading screenplays, learning to sweeten audio or even working in Starbucks, for crime’s sake.

But, no, my masochism, or perhaps more likely my desire for screenplay material drawn from the insanity of real life, urges me to continue to a phone interview.  During this stage of the debacle, I learn that Daniel (“Mr. Daniel”) still does NOT have a last name, has NOT ever made a film, will NOT send me a screenplay, will NOT refer me to a web site.  He claims his trailers have had 500,000 views; however, I, as a potential crew member, may not be allowed to view these trailers.

He goes on to denigrate my film work “Have 500,000 people seen ~your~ work?”  (The appended diminutive appellation, “Little Missy” is only implied.)

And then…TA DA…you guessed it.  The topper.  The capper.  The ne plus ultra.  The icing on the cherry on the insult on top of the injury.  No budget.  No pay.  He has, though, spent the money to buy a camera.  Gawd, have I ever heard this pitch before.  Damn, am I ever tired of it!

To be clear, there are Things and there are Thangs.  If a truly indie film needs unpaid crew; if I have time in between paid projects; if I like the people; if the story is meaningful; if it could be either fun or full of heart or possibly bring back some deferred comp or recognition; that’s a Thing.  They show me their screenplay; they show me their reel or their web site or even their student projects.  We can work together.

If a legitimate studio wants to hire me to work on a real film with real stars; and they want to be cheap and pay me minimum wage, that could also be a Thing.  I get something from it.

But, someone who won’t even reveal his last name, let alone the screenplay, who needs a secretary as a go-between, and who can buy a camera but not pay crew: that’s a whole ‘nother Thang.

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