I don’t have a lot of regrets over my time at Film Score Monthly.
Sure, I made a lot of mistakes and had embarrassing moments—but that’s just life. In general, I feel like I got the big decisions right, we did a lot of good work and had fun...I hope!
But one thing I truly regret: that we did not build our message board to require real names of the users. (It’s too late, and would be far too expensive, to do that now.)
We built the board so long ago (late 1990s) that all we did was follow the Internet custom of the time: so you’d discuss film music not with Phil Jones, a nice guy and good neighbor; but MegatronWarp77, an utter monster from the darkness of cyberspace.
It wasn’t until Facebook, I think, that the practice of using real identities online became standard for social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
When people have to say who they are, they behave way better.
Unfortunately, the FSM board has acquired a permanent reputation as an irredeemable hive of scum and villainy. And I truly regret that.
The problem is that if there are 97 users who are polite, friendly and well-behaving, and 3 who are volatile, rude and obnoxious—guess which ones dominate the tone?
Sometimes I just can’t stand it. The handful of “nanner nanner” people, who think it’s their right to just say whatever they want to anybody...well, they have chased off numerous industry professionals, for good, many of whom are my friends.
Now, were these pros maybe a bit too sensitive? Yeah, probably.
But I just can’t say how annoying it is when people are surly, rude, hair-triggered, etc.
And where was I while this was happening? I mean, am I not the boss? Can’t I just set all the posts to need moderator approval? (Yeah, sorry, not doing that.)
As I have explained innumerable times: I am not the thought police. I cannot wave a magic wand and get people to behave better. And sorry, I’m not reading all this crap, no way!
We were talking about Basil Poledouris recently, and I forgot to tell a great anecdote of his. When he was recording Making the Grade (a mid-1980s teen comedy) in Italy—great score, by the way—for business reasons he had to use an Italian conductor, Francesco DeMasi.
The orchestra just wasn’t that good, and Basil desperately tried to communicate with DeMasi from the booth to improve the performance.
Basil pleaded, “Can’t you get them to play better?”
And I wish I could have filmed Basil performing DeMasi’s emphatic response, arms out, fists clenched—“I would eat BROKEN GLASS to get them to play better!!!”
So yeah, if I could get people at the board to behave better—not sure I’d eat broken glass. But I’d eat something.
We have banned numerous people in an effort to improve the tone.
Some are just insane trolls. It’s easy to zap them (and re-zap their attempts to come back, until they get bored).
The worst is when it’s somebody who is not altogether uninformed, or even a bad person...but just has a supremely annoying personality.
And I’m sorry if any of them see this and have their feelings hurt—but it’s like they just can’t control themselves. They poke at people, and snap off insults. Jekyll and Hyde.
The absolute worst to me is when I email them privately and they’re like, “But I was just being funny. That’s my sense of humor.”
Well, no, dude, you’re not funny.
Anyway, I mention this today because I want everybody to know...I have finally met my match. I have had the same experience YOU have all had with MY awful discussion board.
I refer, of course, to the Reddit/Screenwriting discussion group.
I have posted and participated on it from time to time. I think I have interesting things to say, and I’m happy to share my experiences and advice, in a “take it or leave it” way.
Some of my stuff has been well-received. I’ve met a few interesting people.
But I did buck the custom by posting under my real name. Strike one.
And, upon seeing the dozens if not hundreds of hard-luck newbies trying to develop their craft, or interact professionally with “the business,” I gave what I thought was honest advice. Strike two.
And now I have picked up an “anti-fan group” who ruthlessly gang-downvote me.
Sometimes I’ve wondered, did I handle this well?
I always try to be reasonable. I’ve interacted with people online for so long, I am well-practiced at keeping my cool. I like to find common ground.
But if I can be honest...I think where I went wrong is assuming these folks would be reasonable. There is a huge swath of users who are obviously very headstrong, ignorant young men. (And I specifically say men. Not women.)
They don’t know anything about the business or about writing. But they think they do.
So I break it to them and I get attacked. Sometimes the post is so hostile, and off-base, I’m like, “Who is this idiot?”
I’ll click their history to see what else they’ve posted on Reddit—and let’s just say, there are some sick and dark corners of that place.
Or, to be polite, the best you could say is that these are frivolous people.
I think the nadir was the guy who, after I posted a script to ask for feedback (which has never had a good result for me), tried to sell himself as a ghostwriter who could rewrite it.
He would not give his name, credits, or reveal anything about his credentials except in terms of broad puffery.
His story ideas were all terrible and on top of that, I hated him.
So I said of course not, but his demands (for me to hire him) escalated to the point where he was trying to blackmail me. He stalked me at other platforms, at which point I blocked and reported him, and that was that.
Well, it’s a shame. A lot of these folks are simply reality-challenged—and if you don’t conform to what they want to believe, they attack you.
The Facebook and Twitter screenwriting discussions tend to be much better—because of real names.
But I guess the Reddit group does serve a purpose of allowing industry professionals to ask for anonymous advice on real-world problems, tell candid tales, and blow off steam from time to time. Which I understand.
I just want all of you to know: I have wiped out and gotten water up my nose from an unstoppable ocean of dumbness and hostility—just like so many of you have on the FSM board.
Enjoy my discomfort!