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I fed a troll once.
I tangled with a Critters fan and regretted it instantly.
“Don’t feed the trolls” was a mantra I learned on AOL message boards. And still, I did the thing you weren’t supposed to do. I fed one.
It was 2019, and Critters Attack, my first director-for-hire feature film, was set to be released. Before the movie hit VOD, we had a screening at Fantasia in Montreal, and the thing played like gang-busters. One guy in the Q&A even told me we made the best Critters movie! (Bless his heart, I knew that wasn’t true.) Even the early reviews were great. Not bad, considering the film was a cheap quickie SyFy channel joint!
But then the movie came out for public consumption, and the vibe was different. This harmless movie, made enthusiastically with no money and little time (2 weeks to edit the film), got dragged by critics.
The online Critters community had just trashed the previous Critters reboot (Critters: A New Binge) and decided that Critters Attack was ruining their childhood too. And while the backlash wasn’t enough to write home about. It was a new sensation for me. I was used to making independent films no one saw. I didn’t know the meaning of backlash!
There were a couple of dickheads I had to block on Instagram. I would post an innocent photo of me and a puppet, and they would post that I fucked up their lives. But then there was one dude. One dude who kept egging me on. And I finally took the bait.
He was bitching about how the Critters weren’t born out of eggs in the film and took issue with them not speaking with subtitles. So I privately messaged him. Mr. Bobby “Hollywood” Miller would tell him how the business worked. It was my duty!
Enough was enough!
I informed him these script details were approved and locked in before I signed onto the project. That certain owners of the IP wanted things a certain way. I could have walked away if I didn’t want to agree to the terms. But I saw an opportunity to do something fun. I was delighted to fly to South Africa and make a quickie, Roger-Corman-type movie—something fast, goofy, and not overly precious like my first film.
He didn’t understand. Wasn’t the director the person who controlled every aspect? I tried to tell him that even in a film you write/direct (like The Cleanse), that’s not always the case. But that’s also part of the job— figuring out what to do when the thing in your head isn’t achievable on the day. Some people find that frustrating, but I always saw it as an opportunity for pragmatic magic.
His head wanted to explode. The notion that a director didn’t have control over every frame of the film was shocking. I wanted to tell him that on Critters, there were certain bits I wasn’t even on set for because the producers decided to shoot stuff after I left South Africa, something I wasn’t protected against because I’m a non-union director. But, I felt he might lose his mind.
With his defenses lowered, I asked him the question I most wanted answered. Why would anyone post such shitty things about another person, who he didn’t know, without any real clue as to how the film was made?
He told me it was the only way to get my attention. He had to be a dickhead, or I wouldn’t engage with him. He then revealed that he wanted to work with me. That he was a writer. And thought we could make a good team.
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