There are a lot of scams on the Internet. I know this because Iím friends with the Prince of Nigeria and he needs your help. Along with a lifetime supply of V1agra. Along with the scams are the trolls who just seem to want to instigate. Now that social media has taken hold, simple political statements can lead to hours of in depth debate of simple talking points to incredibly complex situations. And worse, a proliferation of low self esteem people who find courage behind anonymous internet profiles with no accountability. Never is that more prevalent than with filmmaking.
Thereís nothing new here, but still, a few simple guidelines to avoid liars, scam artists, and psychotics on the Internet.
1. If someone says ďIíve worked with major TV networksĒ that have no name, they tend to be exaggerating (if not flat out lying) about their resume. Michael J. Fox doesnít say he worked for major networks. He says he worked for NBC and ABC. Similarly, I say I make a show that airs on PBS, then itís pretty easy for anyone to confirm that the show has aired on PBS, albeit regionally.
2. When someone claims to write for ďinternational print magazinesĒ that have no name or websites that remain nameless, then you probably donít need to take them seriously. If I put on my resume that I wrote for a national print publication, then told prospective employers that they donít need to know which ones, that would be laughable.
Instead I say I wrote some articles for print for VIDEOMAKER MAGAZINE, then provided a few links to them like THIS. Or this. Or that.
3. The grotesque exaggeration of facts can easily be detected. When people say they have a film going to Sundance, usually that means they are just submitting, along with the other 10,000 people at a shot at it. Again, the lists of films accepted and shown are pretty easily available. Similarly, usually a person who is an Emmy winner can be confirmed on the Emmy website.
Since the desktop revolution, many people make projects. Whether it be an indie film or a web series or TV show. Saying youíve made a show FOR a network insinuates that you were hired by and paid to make the show for them. Going around claiming to have made pilots for cable channels is disingenuous at best and completely deceptive at worst. If I went around and used a camcorder to shoot random footage and intended to get it on Nickelodeon, I would never claim I made a pilot for Viacom. Even if someone at the network saw it, that would be lying.
I guess I donít understand how people can either fail to be skeptical in this day and age or how imbecilic the people who try to claim to be something they are not can be.
We live in the information age. What youíve done lives on forever. Itís one thing to be arrogant about what youíve done, the subjectivity of how important your actual accomplishments are, but itís something else entirely to manufacture these from the ether. Itís so easily disproved.
At this point, I recommend asking questions. Politely. Anyone who makes outrageous claims about their status in the film industry online, itís so easy to spend a few minutes finding out if they are legit. Itís the best way to avoid donating money to a project that is a waste of money or if someone is just looking for handouts to buy crack online. Or act out their psychotic fantasies online.
I just cannot see how when youíve done something, how hard it is to simply state clearly what it is. Because it seems like the Internet is an all new world, people think the deception is so easy because itís an illusion, and people generally want to believe in others telling the truth. But when it comes down to it, the proof is in the pudding. Can you prove you are what you say you are? Does the lie get exposed with 2-3 clicks? Generally, no one is fooled. Or cares.
I recommend healthy skepticism. It will save you time and money. And headaches.