I’ve been away from the keyboard for too long, but I felt the need to regroup and recharge by taking advantage of the rare opportunity for vacation.
Just a few days ago, I said goodbye to family at the end of a short visit up North. As I was on my way out they wished me luck with my future endeavors and asked me to update them as I hit milestones along the way. It wasn’t until I was tucked into my window seat at the Milwaukee airport that I realized that I had already hit one about a week earlier. I’d had my first internet troll. It shocked me pretty hard because it was so unexpected. I had heard of this happening to others but I didn’t realize how disturbing the comments could be until I felt the sting myself. This particular troll was a former acquaintance that I had cast in a movie several years ago. The project had gotten most of the way through post-production when we hit several snags that prevented finishing (a common problem with undergraduate thesis projects). This made the person very angry because (I speculate) he had a lot riding on the project’s outcome (everyone else was much more reasonable and understanding of the situation). When he didn’t receive footage for his reel, he became irate and demanded that I give him a finished copy of the film, which was impossible because it could not be finished due to sundry difficulties outside of my control, one of which was the lack of cooperation from the very person demanding the film be delivered. After going round and round arguing and trying to explain the process and the reasons why I couldn’t accommodate, he blocked my email and refused to return my phone calls, even when I spent my own personal funds to travel to L.A. to handle dialogue work rather than insist that the actors come to Texas. This, of course, means that he did not respond to schedule ADR work at the studio that we had reserved during my time in LA.
Then, just a few weeks ago I was feeling energized by the fact that much needed technology had come within reach and I started ramping back up on the sound work. That same week, the angry individual popped up on my social media accounts lashing out with absurd insults and lies. To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement. When someone spreads lies about you, it elicits a visceral emotion because of the fear that others will believe the lies. Having studied media in college I had the good fortune and opportunity to look at case studies where media was used for that exact purpose of deception and the negative effects were far reaching. This conjured unpleasant thoughts about what might happen to my reputation but I’ve been through work related conflict before. It’s not professional to retaliate, but it is important to respond in self defense in case anyone in internet land saw the comments. Also, because I think the discussion is a healthy one and could be used in the future to help normalize expectations in order to prevent a reoccurrence. Even as an undergrad student at age 23 when people were difficult during a production, to my recollection, I dealt with these situations in a professional manner with much forbearance. (Possibly to much in this case). I say too much because it is my responsibility as director to bring the production to completion in an efficient manner (taking into account, of course, acts of God and other working conditions outside of my control) but sometimes, the people that we find ourselves working with have unreasonable expectations (If one studies the history of the market system, we see that this is a pattern with people throughout history in western society). At best, this kind of conflict is emotionally unhealthy and it kills project efficiency. Worse yet, it could significantly hamper completion of the film or harm a person’s career. Since it would be unrealistic to sue in the absence of properly executed written contracts (student film) / lack of funding, and because its impossible to terminate the relationship due to completed photography with the disaffected, the only choice that remains is to negotiate with them or find a work around. Its a reality that relationships sometimes break down. If I had a choice, this is a lesson I’d rather learn when there’s less at stake, but optimism ushers in a better perspective and a revelation that the hard road always has a way of imprinting itself on the brain forever. Which means that the difficulties give rise not to a Sisyphean task but rather a “holzweg”; a “wood path” you get lost on during a detour through an unfamiliar forest. A path that forces you to learn that forest so well that one day you’ll navigate it like a pro. So…not only is the experience “not” a failure, but to the intrepid explorer ’tis the road to success. A rite of passage even.
…..To Be Continued