Monday, June 20, 2011

A Helping Hand

I get a lot of emails asking for help and I answer them all, as I do with all my emails. If someone has taken the time to write to me it's only right I take the time to write back...even if I'm busy. If I can't help them myself I'll point them in the direction of someone who might be able to.

Most of these requests for help I get come from media students; I was one once, so I'm only too happy to do what I can for them. A good example of this is when I was contacted by a tutor from Bangor who asked if I had any old scripts the students could film for their course. I was very happy to help them out, sending them two very old scripts. They had fun making them and I got a buzz seeing scripts I thought long dead get made. A win/win situation for all concerned. But there's always someone who has to go and spoil it for others.

I was contacted at the beginning of the month and literally begged by a MA student in London for a short script, as he needed something by the 10 June at the latest, as he had to film four short films as part of his course and was quickly running out of time. I explained to him I was very busy with several paid projects and consequently was only taking on paid work, but I offered to squeeze him into my busy schedule for a small fee. He was still eager for my help and happily agreed to pay.

I kept the student up-to-date with how I was getting on, sending him copies of the script as it progressed, and at all points he said he was very happy with what I was producing for him. When I presented him with the finished first draft ready for him to come back to me with any notes he told me he really liked it. I then didn't hear from him and the 10th June came and went. I sent him two chase emails and finally got a short, abrasive email back from him on the 15th saying he wasn't sure about my script and would get in contact if, and when, he had any notes for me. The alarm bells started ringing in my head.

I wrote back to him asking what was wrong and why he had changed his mind about the script? I got a very rude reply stating he wasn't going to pay me and that he considered the matter closed. So I Googled his name only to find out he'd put a ton of adverts online over the last couple of months asking for scripts, two even posted after his deadline of the 10th June, none of which stated he needed them urgently. It was then quite obvious to me I had been conned and this student was getting writers to write him scripts, making each one think they were the only one working for him, claiming he needed them urgently so that he had several scripts from which to choose from when he was ready to film his MA project.

Now it's not the money I'm concerned about, the money isn't important at all, what gets me is this student got me to write him a script using lies and deceit, knowing I was busy and couldn't really spare the time, and then when the project was done he simply wanted to cut all ties. I suspect, although this is only supposition, he intends to claim credit for the screenplay himself. He'll find it an impossible task now though, as I hunted down his course tutor and told him categorically that this MA student wasn't allowed to use my work in any form and I even sent the tutor a copy of the script to use as reference. I also asked him if he could have a talk with the student about professionalism...he was only too happy to do so.

The moral of this story is be honest and don't deceive those you are working with. It takes years to build up a good reputation and only moments to lose it. This business is built on reputation and word of mouth, and if the word about you is bad then you'll find it hard, or even impossible, to get work.

If anyone out there thinks they've replied to this student's ad, or is working for him now, then please email me and I'll answer whatever questions you have in private.

The unfortunate down side of this is I will now probably say 'NO' to the next student who writes to me asking for help. This doesn't mean I'll stop helping people who ask for it, I'll just be more cautious when people approach me, at least for a while.


Colin Wood said...

If you want to exact a suitable revenge on the afore mentioned MA Con Artist I do have a balaclava and rounders bat... ;-)

Seriously though, I've noticed that a lot of writers are very generous with their time and advice and I could name a few very nice people (Emilia DG, James Moran and Terry Cafolla) who've been kind to give me help with my meagre writing efforts but this student's action has now ruined it for the rest of us Dom (as your last sentence will testify) so it the chap in question reads this blog and the associated comments can I just say "thank you and I hope that the devil vomits on your duvet and all over your film equipment..."

Dominic Carver said...

Out of all the people I've dealt with in the past it's only happened twice. Unfortunately it only takes one incident to make you think twice about things.

Unknown said...

Name and shame, Dom. Name and shame. I see adverts/calls all the time on Talent Circle etc and you never really know ...

Dominic Carver said...

Me - I won't be naming and shaming, as I really don't see the point. What's done is done, as long as others can learn from this lesson then that's a positive thing.

However, as I said in the post, if someone thinks they're already working for him and want to check with me it's the same person they are welcome to email me and I'll answer in private, as I have no interest in publicly slagging this guy off despite his actions.

Unfortunately there are a lot of time wasters out there, but those who are genuine and hardworking will always rise above thanks to good word of mouth. If you're not sure about someone just ask about, someone will know them.

Dominic Carver said...

I'm really surprised no one has emailed me to ask?

ColinM said...

I got involved with a couple of would be producers via SP after a script call that have all come to nothing. And without getting to the bottom of the exact reason why they suddenly disappear from your email inbox I sort of get the impression they have a short attention span! They tend to bounce from one idea to another and lack that focus or staying power required to see a project through to the end. What do you think Dom?

Dominic Carver said...

That's a good point, Colin, and possibly very true.