I meet a lot of new people during the course of Festivals. Some make great impressions. Some don’t. Hell sometimes I don’t. “I ain’t no monument to justice!”
[Extra points if you can identify that quote yay!]
It happens. But. I have a career. Many of the people who appear to be working overtime to make a bad impression don’t. Or, do, but appear hell bent on a bad impression anyway.
Here are some cautionary don’ts for festivals.
DON’T TREAT WRITERS LIKE PERFORMING MONKEYS: One of the most problematic questions civilians [and also clueless wannabe writers] ask writers is, Oh I see, you are a writer, [and then they lean backwards in a chair in a condescending way and say] anything I’m familiar with?
How would I know? I don’t know what you watch or even like. I just met you. WTF?
My knee jerk reaction to that is, How the fuck would I know?
But I try to be more polite than that.
Seriously, you’re asking a writer to read your mind and figure out what you have read or seen during your entire existence on the planet and dance like a monkey trying to, what, conjure up a list on a platter of anything YOU might have been interested in or seen during your lifetime?
You’re so an asshole.
But. I usually, instead of saying fuck off with your condescending asshole question leaning back like I am some slave girl who must offer up my life’s work for you on a guessing game platter as if it’s grapes in Egypt, just say, I don’t know.
Pushed, I will cough up a list of things I’ve worked on. Just to be polite. Here’s the next problem that shows up. But you’re already an asshole at this point. Oops. Bad you.
DON’T DISS FILMS: I met this guy this year who did the whole, Anything I’VE ever seen or read? [Fuck you! Oh wait I’m being nice since a friend intro’d us.] And since a friend introduced him, I finally got polite and told him I’d worked on Excess Baggage, The Ladykillers, and One for the Money. The only title he knew was The Ladykillers, so he focused in on that and asked me if I was credited. And I said no.
Then he asked, Did you like it?
This is a really weird and problematic question to ask someone who worked on a film. I didn’t actually like the resulting film, so I opted for honest and said, Well it’s not one of my favorite projects.
He then launched into how it was the worst Coen film ever made. And kept going. And going. And going….
I sat there for ten minutes listening to this guy telling me how much a film I worked on sucked. And finally said –
You realize I worked on this, right?
And he looked at me blankly and said, But you said you didn’t like it.
And I said, Look, you put me on the spot there and I’m not going to say it’s my favorite project, but I’m also not going to sit here for an hour and listen to you diss a project I worked on.
And I got up and excused myself to go have a smoke.
Here is one of the number one things about talking to film people. Don’t get excited about dissing films. Especially if you’ve never even worked on a film. What the fuck do you know? Especially if you’re talking to someone who did work on the film you’re dissing. Why the fuck does someone want to sit there listening to you who’s never made a film in your life diss a film they worked on that actually got made for how long? This guy was going strong for ten minutes and didn’t look like he was running out of steam?
DON’T BE A DICK PANELIST: Sometimes headed out about town during the festival – or on the Driskill smoker’s patio – I’ll strike up a conversation with someone. I’m usually just being friendly. Or getting hit up for a cigarette. [The number of sudden smokers who want to smoke someone else’s cigs at festivals is truly awe inspiring. I take an extra pack with me every day I am at a festival so I can give away cigs to the “non-smoker” mooches and also actually smoke my own cigarettes.] So I’ll say something like, panelist, or attendee?
Some of the panelists get really weird. Like all cagey with their info and stuff and hemming and hahing like they’re JFK and I might have a long distance sniper’s rifle on me and they don’t have their secret service close enough to answer a question.
I get it to a certain extent. They are feeling important and like anyone they tell who they are will jump them wanting some kind of desperate connection. But. Dude. You bummed a cigarette off me. You don’t get to go all Jason Bourne if you fucking bummed a cigarette. These things are ten bucks a pack these days, you essentially asked for money and then got weird when someone was just being polite. WTF?
Also, I don’t care. I’m not some baby screenwriter who cares about who you are or what you do. I’m being POLITE.
I’ve been in the weird sitch in the lady’s bathroom where some voice is echoing, “Now Max that I have you cornered.” It’s freaking weird being the main course everyone is trying to jump. I understand that. But you’re at a festival as the main course and you know it, you showed up for that. AND you bummed a cigarette. So don’t be the freak who either doesn’t have a good lie for polite conversation after you bum a couple cigarettes? Or are pretending you’re too important to tell anyone else on the smoker’s porch who you are. That’s serial killer weird. And I want my cigarette back if you pull that shit.
*Sidenote: Don’t call someone named Max “Sam” and don’t make up stories about being from New Orleans if you’re talking to someone who actually lived in Louisiana and for sure knows you’re lying.