Seeing someone get fired is not uncommon in any work situation. Be it a fast food place, in a retail environment, or yes, in a white-collar office job. We've all witnessed the walk of shame and the silent glances and murmurs.
While IRL firing situations people talk amongst themselves—and the details of the firing rarely make it beyond water-cooler talk or happy-hour gossip—Twitter thrives on oversharing.
Screenwriter Twitter exists within that world. Sharing private intel or experiences that other people hope to be part of one day is Twitter gold.
But when sharing experiences, positive or negative, that happen within the confines of what is supposed to be a sacred and safe place—say, a Writers Room or Film Set—should it happen?
As someone that has worked in a Writers Room, the writers and showrunners I worked with know, and should feel absolutely confident, that anything they shared in my presence is under lock and key in my brain. No one will ever know what happened beyond the generic "what my work day was like." Anything else, especially considered private and off limits, including “room notes?” They will never to be shared or talked about.
This is not gatekeeping or limiting intel for future BIPOC creatives. This is simply industry standards.
Not only is everyone that works in a Writers Room or Film set, working with someone else’s IP (intellectual property), if you signed an NDA, it is unlawful to share anything and is well-known that anyone who shares selfies, photos, notes, details, and the like, is bound to not only get fired, but potentially sued. And very unlikely to be hired again regardless of how talented the creative is.
Suing and IP aside, would you want to work with people who share anything outside of the privacy of the room or film set? I know I wouldn’t.
I can only imagine what it would feel like if a senior writer or showrunner didn’t like my pages. Disheartened and discouraged would probably be my mood. After sulking overnight, I would probably ask what was “shitty” about my work. Did the characters not connect? Did the story not flow? Is there a hole anywhere?
Basically, how can I do better?
Unlike a former boss in my PR life who was known to throw chairs across the room, most people in the room (or Hollywood in general) aren’t going to do that. If they’re like me, and most Latinos (side note, most showrunners aren’t people of color) they will probably raise their voices, talk very fast, and raise their hands in the air. It’s a cultural thing that could be misconstrued by people who have never been around BIPOC folks as “mean” if they are under the age of 30, “lively” by more mature writers.
I do know what it was like to be reprimanded on a film set: embarrassed and doubtful of my own abilities. But you know how I dealt with it? I took the feedback, digested it overnight, and did better the next day.
That mistake was never repeated.
If you ask anyone about that one mistake I made two years ago in the middle of a show with so many moving parts, I promise you, no one remembers but me.
But what do you do if what is shared about you or your work style is not factual? If you asked me 10 years ago, I believed in “mum's the word.” So, when the National Magazine and Fortune 500 retailer didn’t pay me and therefore delayed the checks of several other freelancers, I stayed quiet and ponied up the money myself.
At the time, my coworkers and friends told me to blast the magazine and retailer. I, of course, didn’t. “Burning your bridges” wasn’t a thing back then.
The truth is, people outside of me were burning the bridges for me. And, because I didn’t defend myself (until last year), everything said about me was believed to be true. So, there is something to say about stopping folks in their tracks and defending your “honor.”
But there is also a time and place to do it. And maybe Twitter is never the place to handle business beyond a coy response that is neither unprofessional nor legally binding.
To get to that place, give it a day. Be strategic on how to respond without giving out too much information, putting others (including your former coworkers that could one day be your boss) at risk. Or do what I do when a Tweet of mine goes viral: “mute it” and do not explain yourself immediately.
When nosy folks approach you, remind them that workplace conflict is private and that anything in a Writers Room or Film Set happens in a safe and closed place, therefore, you can’t share or comment.
And, maybe, just maybe, for the first time ever, not sharing or commenting puts you in front of the right folks for the right reasons.
If only, right?
*Feature photo by Matheus Bertelli (Pexels)