Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Mystery Exec and the value of your own identity

I usually keep the twitter-specific drama to Twitter, but this week one particular event occurred that seemed worth noting. The anonymous tweeter known as @MysteryExec nuked his account. The gentleman behind this moniker claimed to be a studio executive of some kind and in recent years, had taken to semi-regular "sermons from the mountain top" imploring his followers to "Be the Change" and support new and diverse voices in Hollywood.

I'll be honest with you - I was not always a fan of the guy and a lot of that had to do with my conviction he was a fraud. I remember what his account was when it launched sometime in 2010. He was less of an idealistic force for change and more like a bad parody of someone's impression of Kevin Spacey in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS. When an account goes from boasting about all the chicks he's banging while knocking back liquor to suddenly being very pro-feminist, it's hard not to see someone putting on an act. Neither incarnation really rang true as a real exec's voice.

In fact, there was one time I tweeted "If an account has 'Mystery' in front of it, you can bet that whatever follows it is total horseshit." Within seconds he replied, "oh, like YOU'RE so scintillating!" It seemed curious to me that my stray comment would have gotten so far under the skin of a person who was what they claimed to be.

But even I called a truce of sorts, eventually. I refused to follow him until late last fall when I saw that he was boosting the signal for some causes I feel strongly about, particularly anti-piracy and stronger voices for women and minorities in film.

Last night, I tweeted some thoughts about what we can learn from all of this. What follows is an edited transcript:

I don't blame people for feeling mislead by Mystery Exec. I don't like when anonymous accounts misrepresent themselves. No matter how transparent the ruse. I've seen people say that they really responded to a lot of his thoughts calling for more diverse voices in film, among other calls to arms. If what he said provoked you to think about things differently, that isn't diminished by learning Santa isn't real.

But I also keep coming back to the fact that everything he said - he didn't need a fake executive pose to give it weight. It's a genuine shame he felt he couldn't express those opinions while being honest about who he was. Or what he was.

Look, I'm a script reader. I'm LOW on the totem pole. And via my blog and twitter, I've reached a lot of people here and made a LOT of contacts in real life. And I've made a lot of good friends. And it's NOT because I'm anonymous. And it's NOT because people love readers. It's because i have a voice of my own. And I've found people who respond to that. Or they found me. I'm not important, but people listen.

I'm sorry that ME closed himself off from that by maintaining total anonymity. I'm sure there are a lot of good friends he could have made. The first time a working writer asked me to coffee, the idea someone WANTED to meet me was so foreign I didn't realize it WAS a legit invite.

You can make good friends on here. I've made very strong friends. I've made bonds that have helped my career, for sure. I use the moniker so this isn't the first thing that pops up when people google me. It wasn't so I could drop gossip or put on an act. This is 100% me. I strive to be intellectually honest here. After all, who'd pretend to be a Script Reader?

So if you must take a final lesson from this Mystery Exec thing, let it be this. Don't be afraid to be yourself.

You don't need a fake Mystery moniker to have value.

Also, keeping up an act is HARD.

Thank you, and have a good evening.


  1. The irony is that you DID need a fake moniker for your voice to have value and power. While the value of your blog is obvious, I would be willing to wager this blog would not have taken off nearly as fast as it did, if you were open about your identity from day 1. I'd also bet one of the "secondary" reasons you chose anonymity was because you feared backlash from the insider industry based on either your critiques of writers, scripts you've read or the inability to be as honest as people often feel they can be when hiding behind anonymity.

    My point is, everyone loved their industry champion Mystery Exec when we could ASSUME he was someone big and important. It gave his words undeserved weighted importance.

    But the real truth no one wanted to face was the fact it was obvious he wasn't a real exec, because he would NEVER make it to being one with the "positive persona" he took on. If that was TRULY who he was in real life, he would have been ostracized before he ever reached a position where he actually mattered. I know because I've ostracized myself for being the REAL DEAL that chose morals over money, integrity over opportunity and transparency over secrecy and collusion. Sharing profits with cast, crew and charities yet still pulling a higher equity share than anything traditional Hollywood can stand to break off. All this type of REAL KNOWLEDGE and "change" doesn't get endorsed, promoted or backed by the establishment that is most threatened by that change, so the people that claim to clamor for such change, really deep down inside just want the PERCEPTION of change professionally packaged and sold back to them. Anonymity just adds to the curiosity and entertainment. Because watching the voice of change ACTUALLY suffer in real-time to bring his words to the forefront, is boring, lame and TLDR.

    So when the REAL DEAL stands on rooftops shouting all the same things about "Being The Change", but is ACTUALLY being the change, right down to telling Hollywood heavy hitters to GFTS rather than sell out friends, family or himself, even going as far as to use his art/talent as a vehicle to give back to causes, NO ONE gives a damn, because there is no air of success or mystery attached to that voice. Just cold hard reality that usually accompanies the truth.

    People say they want the truth, but they want the truth polished up, repackaged and sold back to them by the very establishment that built itself on lies.

    It's easy to ignore the voice of some little nobody who actually is what these celeb anonymous accounts always claims to be, but because he's not a coward hiding in Anonymity, lying about who he is to better "tell the truth", or backed by the machine while pretending to be against the machine no one gives a damn. No one stops to ask, how else would the real deal arrive on the scene??

    For all the followers of @MysteryExec that saw him as the voice this industry needs, you get the world you deserve.

    For anyone else - Here is what the real deal looks like and you can see exactly how much it's worth to the public when it doesn't come with money or a fake persona.

    When the real deal shows up and starts telling the truth, people freak out, shun the message, and condemn the messenger. Why do you think the false prophets always hide behind anonymity in the first place?

    1. Ah, but it's not a FAKE moniker. I am, or more accurately, WAS a script reader. I'm very specifically not offering any perspective beyond what I have directly experienced. Literally the only deception has been that I have not attached my real name to it. I'm not claiming to be something that I'm not - and that's the disconnect between me and Mystery Exec.

      You're right in that I've not used my real name for career reasons. The biggest reason is that when I went out on job interviews, I didn't want this blog to be the first thing that people saw when they googled my name. I think longtime readers will agree I've never spilled any sleazy dirt or thrown undue mud, but we live in an age where the POSSIBILITY that someone might do so makes employers wary. So why attach that extra scrutiny to my resume? Also, some of these companies have non-disclosure policies, but again, I've never given up anything that would get me in trouble should my ID be revealed after the fact.

      But again, I'm so low on the totem pole that there's zero chance I'm someone anyone heard of. I really doubt that my anonymity was what drew people to this. People weren't tuning in for the mystery of "oh boy... who's the Bitter Script Reader gonna turn out to be?" If I titled the blog the same thing and signed every post "Aaron Burr," i guarantee it would have grown at the same rate.

      ME opted for notoriety over authenticity and the price being paid is this conversation. If he'd presented himself as a screenwriter, or someone working in Hollywood and really made an effort to push interesting content via twitter (or blogs) and got seen in the right twitter circles, people would have taken notice.

      On twitter yesterday I used the example of Emily Blake. She's never worked in the biz and when she started blogging, she was a high school teacher. But she put out regular content, interacted with the right communities and that gave her the kind of exposure where she could start a podcast about screenwriting and have a built-in audience. Ditto Amanda Pendolino, who also has a well-regarded blog and who was only a reader/assistant when she started. It feels to me like people taking the Mystery Exec reveal the hardest are also those who have probably followed one or both of those people in the past.

      So when I'm saying he didn't need to fake who he was, that's what I mean. I'm drawing a distinction between name and identity. He didn't need to use his real name, but he'd have done himself a lot of good by promoting under his real identity.