Monday Prescription – Industry “Phonies”

Hi Film Doctor friends.

This week’s Monday Prescription is all about debunking some of the most common types of “industry phonies” – people who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. At any stage – whether you’re crewing up, casting or seeking distribution – you need the right people on board. The film industry, as in any other line of business, is populated by a certain amount of ‘wannabes’, ‘slackers’ and other ‘unreliable characters’, which you need to watch out for.

The 5 most commonly met types of “phonies” to avoid at all times are:

Film Doctor - Film Phony

1. The “Big Shot” – Scenario: you’re a producer/director/actor looking for a project. Someone tells you they’ve got “this fantastic movie”, [insert name] is attached, “we got the best lawyers with 20 years of experience working in the field”, this “award-winning composer doing the score” and loads of other incredibly appealing details. Their whole attitude is “I don’t need you, but you need me”. The whole conversation boils down to how amazing they are and how lucky you are to have met them. Then you check up on the project and the person – on the good old IMDb or just simply Google search – and find out that there is 0.01% truth in what you’ve been sold. Lesson to learn – a truly successful industry professional would never boast about their industry status or name drop excessively when describing their project. When someone does that, they usually got very little covered. A real “big shot” isn’t there to convince you s/he is one, but to do business.

2. The “Primadonna” – This is often concerning actors, although “Primadonnas” could be found among Producers as well, so be wary.  When you spend all your energy and passion taking the project off the ground, the last thing you want to have on your hands is an actor so difficult to please that the movie suffers. As a filmmaker, your time should not be spent in negotiating/fighting/indulging your cast’s demands and conditions (we’re talking beyond reasonable requests here) – you simply cannot afford to, financially/physically/creatively.

You should know that the best actors devote themselves to the ‘bigger cause’, i.e. the film. So anyone who puts themselves above the project should not last long on your set. Especially, if we are talking about “not named” actors (at least, at ‘star’ level you’ve got some ground for your demands).

3. “Distribution for payment” – genuine film distributors pay you a fee to release your film, not the other way around! In any situation where you’re told to give any money upfront to have your film delivered to cinemas/home entertainment/online platforms, you’re being scammed. An exception might be certain digital “aggregator” services – but never an actual distribution company.

4. “Slacker” / The Lazy One – Often found amongst your co-writers – they would do the bare minimum, do it rarely and find hundreds and thousands of excuses why this is happening. The truth is, they’re just plain lazy. Consider such collaborations very carefully – you don’t want the overall project to suffer and you also don’t want to end up with someone who does no work but scoops the credit nonetheless. Laziness is contagious, by the way.

5. The “Party Animal” – This person is at every single networking event/party/conference/screening you can imagine. They seem to know everyone and often end up at the most exclusive, VIP after-after parties you can think of. They call themselves an actor/director/producer, but when you ‘dig deeper’ it transpires that they don’t have one single project worth mentioning. They are so busy networking and partying that there is simply no time left to spend on developing an actual career. The “party animal” is just another version of a ‘slacker’ – don’t get caught up in their ways.  Although, a “party animal” might be a useful acquaintance when you’re trying to raise finance for your film – after all, they are the ones with an entrance ticket to all those rich men’s ‘playgrounds’.


‘Monday Prescription’ No. 41 – Study and choose the people you work with as carefully as you develop your projects. There’s no room for “phonies”.

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Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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One thought on “Monday Prescription – Industry “Phonies”

  • December 4, 2012 at 10:07 am

    How very true. I definitely have met every one of the above pretenders and unfortunately continue to come across them every day. They seem to be breeding like rabbits.
    Great article well done.


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