Damage Control 101

Everyone screws up once in a while. Some more than others. Some bigger than others. Some colossal. (Most, not as colossal as Mel Gibson.) It happens, (especially to Mel) and is all part of the lovely package we call being human. You are not alone in your stupidity (unless you're running a sleazy half-baked contest Mel), and most times, those cringe worthy moments are forgotten by others almost immediately. Occasionally, they're not.

How you deal with those particular screw-ups will set you apart. They will be remembered.


How do you want to be remembered?

It's not the screw up that makes headlines; it's the post-screw up circus. And any publicity really may be good publicity if your only goal is to be remembered for being an idiot, but the wrong type of publicity can sink your career faster than a screen door on a submarine.

Yes, those first few post-screw up reactions will determine how much damage you take (and by you, I mean your career and reputation). Will you stand strong with only minor flesh wounds, or will you be left standing amongst the debris that was once your career, blinking like a cow with brain damage and no clue as to WTF happened?

It is oh-so-important to have good damage control skills, especially in Hollywood where screw ups tend to be a tad public, but it is a skill that many people clearly lack. Never fear, The Single Screenwriter is here to give you the tools necessary to navigate every fuck up from missed deadlines to contest fraud fiascos to Mel Gibson worthy meltdowns. And more importantly, to tell you which tools to put back on the shelf.

Let's start with those. I like to call them:

Damage Control for the Psychologically Disordered

1) The Avoidance Approach - Ignore the screw up and it will go away.

Why it's a bad choice: It won't go away.

2) The Paranoid Approach - Ignore the screw up and assume all fall out to be an unwarranted attack on you.

Why it's a bad choice: You look like an idiot in need of serious meds.

3) The Narcissistic Approach - Ignore the screw up and be offended by all questions related to it with a 'how dare they attack my credibility' attitude. When that doesn't work, pull out the sympathy card and expose all of your very personal traumas for all the world to see in an attempt to deflect from the original screw up.

Why it's a bad choice: NEWS FLASH: You currently have no credibility. And the sympathy card just pissed off the majority of people you were attempting to win over because there is a good chance that any and/or all of your audience probably has some very severe private traumas of their own that make yours look like spilled milk. And guess what? They didn't screw up.

4) The Multiple Personality Approach - adopt several online personas who post all over the net in your defence.

Why it's a bad choice: It can't be done well. For some reason, people who choose this option never have the intelligence needed to keep the lines of communication between multiples open long enough to keep their stories straight.

5) The Psychotic Approach - Attack everyone who questions your screw-up in an attempt to have them labeled as bullies, liars and stalkers.

Why it's a bad choice: Mostly I encourage this one because it's oh-so-fun to watch, but it really is a bad choice. Tossing accusations at people simply because they refuse to pretend the naked-elephant-penis-in-the-room that is your screw-up isn't there, only makes you look like the scary one. They simply look like people pointing at a naked elephant penis.

Now, some people might think that trying a cocktail of these tools may raise their effectiveness level. Be my guest. It's working well for Mel.

These tools all make for great characters, but if you prefer to live without constant chaos and really do need practical damage control, here's a handy-dandy guide on how to do it effectively.

1) Admit you screwed up.

2) Apologize.

3) State how you plan to ensure future similar fuck ups will not occur.

That's it! Voila! Situation over. If you have a solid reputation people will respect you ('cause you know what? They've screwed up on more than on occasion too!!) and you'll be given the benefit of the doubt. You may not believe it, but people are decent that way.

And to those people who choose to ignore this practical, simple solution, I give you my heartfelt thanks for providing endless hours of slow motion train wrecks entertainment.

Amazing pic by Curtis Gregory Perry