Film Diplomacy: In a nutshell, watch your mouth…and act the consummate professional at ALL times. You see, it’s very important (in any business) to act cordially. And in spite of your desire to voice your honest opinion or make a joke, you have to learn to offer it in a way that is as neutral and polite a way as possible.
This was a major challenge for me. And sometimes, it still is. At the end of the day, I pride myself on being somewhat of a jester. I see the irony in things, I see things for what they are and am not afraid to say it. But you CANNOT do this in the entertainment industry or even in most powerful businesses in general.
So some background on my smart-assery (not a word, but I’m totally using it anyways!)
I wrote a Twitter account which initially only one other person knew my identity. Today a handful do, including some people in the industry I greatly respect. Now, while I pride myself on being a consummate professional, I also love to joke around, and sometimes as all jokesters do, I cross the line. And since my account was ghost written (for the most part) I took liberties with it on a few occasions. And today I no longer do. Why? Film diplomacy.
Today, I had so many good joke ideas. Especially following the story about a film finance executive who got forced out because of a bunch of explicit photos with an escort. I couldn’t help but think of the irony in that. I couldn’t help but think of the volume of escorts used in business in general & think that the decision to force someone out for sleeping with an escort was on its face ridiculous (and likely in many business circles — not just entertainment — hypocritical). Hey prostitution is among the worlds oldest professions — BUT YOU CAN’T SAY ALL THAT (I kinda just did didn’t I — exception for examples sake) 😛
Then I realized this story about the executive and his escort had another side to it; The side where image and perception is reality. This executive ultimately acted in a manner unbecoming of a professional. The same can be said of those who lack film diplomacy. Look at the end of the day, I could write an essay of jokes about this incident. And I hope someone like Louis CK does. But at the end of the day, I am not Louis CK. And while being the Jester is fun and all, the Court Jester doesn’t have much respect — unless you’re on the level of Louis CK. If you’re not, your perception is that of someone who isn’t very serious — whether fair or not.
I had to make the professional decision, do I want to be perceived to be the big-mouth Court Jester or the King’s Guard? The Kings Guard of course! At the end of the day, some things for professional reasons are better left unsaid. If I am to ever one day represent the interests of a film professional (especially as a personal assistant or creative development team member — which is my goal) I cannot say as I please. Even if something is said as a joke, it’s probably not funny. And even if something is said on a ghost account — someone can figure you out. You are upholding an image, and often not just your own. So unless you’re looking to uphold the image as a Jester — don’t say it. Sssh, zip it, sit on your hands, count to ten, just don’t say it!
Even famous comedians aren’t absolved from this diplomacy rule. Just last year Seth MacFarland hosted the Oscars. Many in the industry thought his performance and mockery of the industry crossed a line and bordered on tasteless. Yet, most audiences at home loved it according to critical reception. I really think America likes laughing at Hollywood — just like they like laughing at Washington. It’s somewhat of a middle class tradition — the type of entertainment that has sold gossip magazines and launched insult comics careers.
But in the end, if you are in the industry, all that laughing and mockery goes out the window. You are expected to act cordially at all times. Even if you don’t like something, finding something positive to say about it is vastly superior than the bitter truth. Even if you don’t like someone, you shake their hand and smile. Even if you thought that movie was the worst you’ve ever seen — you say what few things you liked about it, not what you didn’t. And even when you don’t want to help that smart ass friend of a friend looking for NY studio space because they royally screwed you over in LA, you help them, because you act cordial AT ALL TIMES. In fact, you may even have to buy that person coffee and not complain and tell them why you love their project. Yup. That’s how it goes. And if you can’t do all that, find another business.
Look, I don’t like this rule very much, but at the end of the day I am willing to censor myself for the sake of my prospective career. I love finding the irony in things and acting like a general smart ass, but that youthful ignorance sometimes has to take a back seat in adulthood. At the end of the day, the King’s Guard has a lot more respect than the Court Jester — even if he does make people laugh.