Unsolicited Monster Calling – Are You In?

A gentleman named Brian called me on my cell after seeing my resume on Monster.com.  Unsolicited Monster calls are generally pretty useless – agencies that want to take your money for jobs that you could easily locate yourself online. It sounded like a cool opportunity – screenwriter for a charitable foundation’s feature. He wasn’t clear about what the mission of the foundation was other than it goes around the world and helps people. He wasn’t clear on the phone whether they wanted to do a documentary or a narrative piece – he said they wanted to create a “new genre”. They also said they had a full-time video editor position. Two of my favorite things to do and they would pay me.

For those of you who don’t know this already, Monster.com is probably the last place a serious film producer would go looking for a screenwriter. I knew that and hoped that maybe this was an exception.

Brian told me to come in the next day at 7 a.m. In the morning. Really. On the other side of the lake. I did some very preliminary research about the company and foundation and didn’t find much. It seemed worth a shot so I got my lazy butt out of bed and was there 15 minutes early.

The office was nice – right on Lake Washington, dogs in the office, nice people at the door. Oddly, someone was playing Christmas music at their desk at 6:45 in the morning. 6:45 is too early for Christmas music on Christmas Day, much less October 14.

Brian looked exactly like he sounded on the phone – military-style haircut, shirt and tie. He brought me back to a conference room with photos of unfortunately still-President Bush in grip and grin poses with what looked like a company executive. This didn’t phase me too much – the company that sponsors the foundation makes portable shelters that are used by the military, oil industry and in disaster areas. Brian asked me the same questions he had asked over the phone while we waited for the other interviewers – he obviously had a script to follow as all good interviewers do.

An older gentleman and a young woman came in, questions started, other people came and went and came back. The older gentleman shook my hand but barely touched it. Three of the interviewers asked me questions about what charities I supported and what I would be willing to do to support a charity. I tend to be a ‘write a check often’ kind of guy rather than a volunteer, and told them so. They asked questions about how long it would take to write a script and how long different scripts of mine had taken. We talked about finding the story in their footage (they have already shot 1000 hours of footage with no script and apparently no plan). I talked about making it something that people could relate to – finding compelling characters and situations that illustrated their point. Tried again in vain to find out what that point was.

The person they all looked at when I said I wanted to know more about the foundation repeated almost word-for-word what Brian had said on the phone – they go around the world and help people. This was in response to a direct question as to the mission of the foundation. She went on to criticize UNICEF and other NGOs because they are just taking money and not helping anyone. This was a little surprising – this tiny foundation that doesn’t even have a Web site is the only one out there helping people? Brian went back to Doctors Without Borders as one that they think doesn’t do anything. Huh. When it came time for me to leave, they asked me on a 1-10 if I was interested in the job, with 10 being ‘hire me now’. I told them an 8 (I do love the video) because I wanted to know more about the foundation and to research what they were saying about Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF. Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, I thanked them and left.

After I got home, I did a little more digging on Google, and figured out that the foundation name was the initials of the company CEO who created the foundation. Still with me? More research revealed that he was a heavy donor to the Republican party and the foundation (or one with the same name) had been reported to be a donor to Focus on the Family. Sigh. I sent an e-mail to Brian and let him know I was no longer interested and why. This prompted an e-mail from Erik (who may have been at my interview – people come and go so quickly there) denying the connection to Focus on the Family.

I would pursue this further except that I have never gotten a straight answer about what their foundation does, or what the ‘blockbuster’ movie they want to make is about. I’m taking my public resume off Monster. And when I finally get a job, I’ll be making donations to UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.

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