So this has been an interesting week. I'm about to tear into some really stupid behavior, but I feel like I have to own up to my part in it first.
This weekend I got an email from a reader, who linked me to a GoFundMe campaign by a gentleman seeking donations for an advertising campaign to promote his spec script through the use of billboards in L.A. This was a script he has spent 23 years trying to sell - WAYNE'S WORLD 3.
I will not be linking to that GoFundMe. After having read through it, I became convinced the person behind it was either an attention-seeker, a deeply naive individual who deserved neither attention nor public humiliation, or a brilliant piece of performance art. The campaign page included scans of all the rejection letters he'd gotten over 23 years, and revealed that he'd first tried to peddle only a synopsis for the film, having never written a screenplay until his first round of rejections.
Gang, we've talked before about writing specs for properties you don't control. I don't think I have anything new to add on the subject, but it is probably worth reading my old posts if you want a sense of how wrong-headed this is.
So with nothing new to glean from that, I didn't see much value in spotlighting a prankster nor making public ridicule of a guy who was the epitome of the clueless wannabe writer. Having said that, I did privately share the link to the page with several professional writers who have crossed paths with these sorts of dreamers before. One of those writers, Geoff LaTulippe, started discussing the campaign on Twitter. It provided the hive mind with about an hour or so of amusement, spawned a few running gags, but at the time there didn't seem to be much harm done.
By Monday afternoon, multiple sites that cover the industry had written stories about this GoFundMe. These include SlashFilm, Uproxx, Metro, Den of Geek and The Independent. I'm not linking to those sites either, because fuck those guys. This is empty content. We're talking about a crowdfunding campaign for a movie that (as most of those sites acknowledge in their story) will NEVER be made. There is ZERO journalistic value in writing about this.
None of the sites even bothered to draw comparisons between this and a similar recent campaign. Not long ago, a DIE HARD fan took out a full page ad in The Hollywood Reporter to pitch his idea for a new film in the DIE HARD series. There's something funny about the fact that no one ever takes this big a risk to promote their OWN original idea. It's always their effort to pitch on existing IP. Perhaps ironically, it's not unusual to see these guys complain about how they're taking such desperate measures because "Hollywood doesn't want original voices." Yes, and pitching a fifth sequel to a 30 year-old film establishes you as the King of Originality.
(The DIE HARD story has a post-script I hesitate to repeat for fear of encouraging copycats. Per The Guardian, the campaign drew the attention of Avi Lerner of Nu Image, producer of films like The Expendables and Olympus Has Fallen. The writer and his partner eventually had their screenplay optioned by Eclectic Pictures, which has a first-look deal with Lerner's company.)
With regard to WAYNE'S WORLD 3 though, at best, there's the point-and-laugh value of the story, and as I said, it feels a little mean to devote an entire story to that. None of the sites apparently attempted to contact the man behind the campaign to get any kind of real story. Nor do they give much context to the discussion of why people shouldn't spec properties they don't own. Honestly, Geoff's tweets from Sunday night - while mocking the silliest aspects of the campaign - were more educational than any of these write-ups.
I want to ask you, SlashFilm, Uproxx, et al... How is this news? There's an ironic line in the Slashfilm article where the writer says of WAYNE'S WORLD 3, "Honestly, there’s nothing about that which jumps out to me as a story that must be told." I'd apply that same statement to every article written about this.
I wrestled with the notion of even posting my own piece on this, but two facets struck me as valuable takeaways. First, seeing this go from a message in my inbox to coverage on a dozen sites in less than 24 hours was a real eye-opener in how fast something can spread despite being completely devoid of value as content. The second point, related to the first, is the incredibly clear demonstration that the editorial oversight of all of those outlets is either lacking in any understanding of the filmmaking process, or is desperate for anything that will get attention.
There's a lot of empty content on those sites, to the point where I'm not even sure they should be considered news anymore. They're blogs that aggregate any content that seems likely to get attention from their reader base. Part of being a reporter and an editor should be to sift through the noise to get to the signal. The only one of these sites I even used to read regularly at all was Slashfilm and I eventually had to walk away from that late last year when they were reposting seemingly every baseless "Fan Theory" about THE FORCE AWAKENS and its successor. That material isn't news. It belongs in the discussion in a comment section, or possibly in a writer's regular column.
If you want to be a news site, stop acting like a message board. If you MUST post something about this GoFundMe, maybe try chasing a real story there and interview the guy behind it. As someone working in the industry, it's embarrassing and frustrating to see it covered by people who cover it without any insight or regard at all.
This is a nothing story, but when they report on things like WGA arbitration, reshoots or post-production without any understanding of how the creative process works, it can actively hurt a film. This is how we get posts implying that a credited writer "stole" rightful credit from a beloved director and writer, or insinuations that J.J. Abrams was a terrible director because scenes were removed and shifted around in the post-production process. And don't get me started on the continuing insinuations that reshoots of any kind must mean that the film is terrible. Plenty of great films have benefited from additional photography and changes discovered in the editing room.
But I'm getting off on a different rant here. If you take nothing else from this post let it be to not do what this WAYNE'S WORLD 3 guy is doing, and to take a second look at how much non-news you're actually consuming on those sites.