• Lukas Kendall

Pissing People Off


Before I get going, can I ask a favor please? It’s super easy, there’s no catch. Can you visit my IMDb page? I just want to see if a few dozen people do this, if the “star ranking” goes up in any meaningful way. That’s all!


Holy cow, I stepped in it yesterday. I got blocked by somebody on Twitter. I apologized profusely to her but was unable to salvage the (non–)relationship.


There is a comedy writer named Cindy Begel whose Twitter feed I came across. She is super sweet and nice and something of a mother–hen figure to young writers.


I thought my blog post yesterday was interesting, so I tried sharing it with some people privately. Like, hey, if you think this is interesting, can you share it?


If something like that came to me, I’d check it out, and probably do nothing—but maybe I’d read it and think, hey, here’s somebody with something interesting and different to say.


However, I can see how people might find this pushy.


Unfortunately, it’s sort of the only way you build a following, you just have to put yourself out there.


She was nice and we went back and forth a bit and I was feeling comfortable, because she’s a comedy writer and I’m Jewish and honestly if she were any more Jewish, she actually would be a bagel.


Not long into the discussion, I asked, “Say, what are you trying to get out of this? Can I help you with anything?”


I honestly thought maybe she’s promoting a blog or a script consulting business or a creative project—who knows? Lots of people are, and this kind of reciprocal–promotion transaction is certainly common. I can’t say I love its mercenary nature, but I accept it.


Turns out she is just being nice to folks for the sake of being nice!


Her response was something like this:


She was hugely offended, and I immediately apologized and felt bad.


Then I saw she had used me as an example, without naming me of course, in her feed, of being a rude, clueless jerk. And several of her followers were piling on, like, “What a dick!”


And I outed myself, apologized again, and thought I’d give some context—the same thing that I just said above, here. Because I really didn’t appreciate people taking pot shots at me, even if they didn’t know it was me. I knew it was me, and it made me upset.


As these things go, the second I was a real person to the followers, not an anonymous “some guy,” the discussion/pot shots stopped dead in its tracks.


So I messaged her privately. Initially I hadn’t offered an explanation for why I said what I said, because usually that kind of thing doesn’t help and if anything makes things worse.


But I did explain, I apologized, I explained and apologized again. She called me out for just wanting to promote my blog.


And, well, that’s true. Guilty as charged, I would like to promote my blog, because it would benefit my creative projects to have people who might be interested in my work. I didn’t think I was running over anybody’s pet cat.


Finally, she blocked me, and, well—I feel like Hillary’s answer here from a 2008 debate (which I remember watching live):


Incidentally, Obama’s flippant response, “You’re likable enough, Hillary,” cost him the New Hampshire primary.


Oh! Here’s another stupid social media fight I had.


There is a screenwriter named Dominic Morgan who goes by the moniker “Scriptfella” who has a YouTube channel where he dispenses a lot of useful, practical advice. I recommend it!


He also has a Facebook discussion group, also called Scriptfella, where I was briefly a member.


I say briefly because, oh boy, this is so trivial and silly. Dominic had/has a contributor named Chuck Hustmyre who writes low-budget, right-wing action films. He literally had a Trump–Pence bumper sticker on his filing cabinet. Which is fine! Free country!


Chuck was on this Facebook group talking about a really stupid query letter somebody had sent him.


This actually happens a lot: there are real writers/producers/managers who get offensively presumptuous and clueless emails from wannabe writers. (I get some, too.)


The pros are, not surprisingly, annoyed and sometimes angry when people cross boundaries (like mailing a script to their unlisted home address—that is, obviously, totally uncool and borderline terrifying).


But sometimes these “blue-check people” (verified accounts on Twitter) go on social to talk about this to their followers. And by “talk,” sometimes they’re saying, “Folks, please don’t do this.” Which is, you know, good advice.


But sometimes they’re actively ridiculing the person who did the thing. They’re really angry and taking it out on some idiot from nowhere. And then many of the followers, being sheep, pile on.


To me, that’s not okay. It’s “punching down.” It’s unbecoming and I would never do such a thing. Have some compassion. These “querying people” are idiots, but they’re human beings with dreams who probably just don’t know any better.


I’ve said this publicly...and it usually does not go well, for me.


Which is what happened here. Dominic obviously banned me as somebody who was back-talking Chuck—because I thought Chuck was being undignified in making fun of somebody who was probably not a malevolent person, just a dummy. (To me, that guy probably has enough problems, he didn’t need a professional mocking him on social.)


Can you keep up with all this bullshit? I’ve become sports talk radio! I’m so embarrassed.


Yesterday I sent my blog link to Dominic, saying, hey, love your advice and would like to know what you think of this.


And he actually replied and was complimentary, said it had some interesting thoughts.


I responded and said thanks, and asked if he could kindly unblock me—because I really enjoyed his Facebook group, and I’ll be a model citizen.


Haven’t heard back. I may not hear back.


I know why not! It’s not a problem: some people (like me!) are just a little bit volatile, a little bit uncontrollable, and it’s simpler not to have them around.


This does, fortunately, get me off of jury duty.


Like one time in voir dire, the questioning started Thursday afternoon, Friday was an off-day, and resumed Monday morning. One of the lawyers kept referring to “last Friday.” So when it was my turn, and he asked me a question, “Last Friday, when the judge asked if you could be impartial...?” I answered it honestly, and then added, “and it wasn’t last Friday, it was last Thursday.”


I was dismissed by lunch!


Ultimately...none of this stuff matters. Is the script undeniably great? That’s all that matters.


Fortunately, it used to be, you could be an abusive maniac so long as the script was great—thank God that has finally changed. But you’re still allowed to have opinions, right?


I find that I am okay with people being upset with me, so long as I was expecting it. Then it’s like, okay, cause and effect.


It’s this unforgettable dialogue from Artie to Hank on The Larry Sanders Show, after Hank bombs on a guest-host taping:


“Hank, what have we learned here? When you’re vulnerable and humble, people like you. When you act like an asshole, people tend to think of you as an asshole.”


It’s when you don’t expect that somebody would be upset that it hurts.


It’s why little kids cry when they fall down—not that they’re in all that much pain, it’s the shock and terror of the world giving them such an unpleasant, unwelcome surprise.


And I stepped it in here, to some degree. I think I assumed because Cindy was Jewish and a comedy writer, she’d respond to a certain kind of informal tone—and clearly she didn’t.


I’m writing about it because I actually enjoy having this blog. I’ve gotten some nice feedback.


The best thing about it...is that I feel like myself again. Really.


In the early years of Film Score Monthly, when I was just a lonely teenager on an island, I felt free and empowered to put together the newsletter however I thought best. I tried to make it informative and entertaining, and many people said they liked it. Probably some people found it annoying and puerile—but it was, at least, mine.


Later, as these things go, it became more of a business and an obligation—and once actual professionals started reading it, there was a lot more responsibility to watch my words and think about who might be upset or offended. (Not a bad thing.)


Ultimately, to have a career as a screenwriter/filmmaker, your world is full of drama and hurt feelings: actors, agents, producers, managers, critics. It’s an exhausting minefield.


But being in a creative field, there are a lot of complications. If you’re a dental assistant, obviously, be nice at all times.


If you’re a creator, people want you for your voice. So you have to find that balance between having an “edge,” a point of view, without being an asshole. (If you’re steering the ship, the producer/director, sometimes you do have to throw an elbow to protect your vision.)


What I’ve learned very quickly doing this blog is that it’s hard to ask people who run for-profit businesses (script coverage, contests, etc.) to read and promote me.


I have a lot of criticisms of that world, and I’m torn between wanting to be truthful (almost all of it is a waste of money) and wanting to build my, ahem, “brand.”


Which was always the problem at FSM: do I be honest, and say something sucks, or hedge because I don’t want to upset the composer/publicist/fans?


Hopefully, in due course I’ll be actually making things and interacting with producers/execs/reps. Then, I’ll be looking back at how easy it was when I was just a blogger!


Have a good weekend!

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