Trolls from “The Wrap” – otherwise known in Hollywood as “The Crap”
Did a new entertainment media competitor maliciously attack Fade In and its editor in chief in order to attract readers to its new website or is there something more sinister going on besides sloppy, one-sided reporting? You decide.
It was recently brought to our attention by our Board of Advisors, that a new entertainment media company/competitor, TheWrap.com, and its founder/COO planned on publishing a fallacious story in order to discredit our reputation. The “story” was published last week and written by Amy Kaufman. It accuses Fade In and myself personally of taking advantage of and lying to entrants and finalists of our competition, the Fade In Awards. It accuses us of telling entrants that the magazine’s Board of Advisors act as the competition’s judges and story analysts. It also accuses us of never having a relationship with Apple or Waterman.
The only problem with Amy Kaufman’s article is, it’s comprised of lies and half-truths. Is this the type of “investigative reporter” the Internet has bred?
As many of you who’ve previously entered the contest know, we clearly state on our online contest page, FadeinAwards.com, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions link) and additionally in paragraph two of each and every notification letter contestants receive, who the contest judges are and who writes analysis on finalist’s winning screenplays. We have never, nor would ever state that our Advisory Board members are the competition’s judges or analysts. Of the approximate 200 finalists and Grand Prize winners we’ve selected over the last decade, until now, not one has ever accused us of this type of false advertising.
“Journalist” Amy Kaufman and fact checkers at TheWrap didn’t even bother to visit our site, didn’t ask us about any of the allegations… Obviously, they were not interested in the truth.
This past December, I personally received several disturbing emails from a newly-named Fade In Awards finalist. The emails instructed me to immediately deliver to him $1,500 cash via Fed Ex in exchange for the name of an individual who had supposedly contacted him and made derogatory statements about our competition. When I refused, this individual threatened me personally, and specifically emailed me that he had my home address, had pulled my credit report and that he would do several things to me if I did not immediately meet his demands. We later found out that this individual had just filed for bankruptcy.
The threats kept coming, so we went to the authorities. When we presented his emails to the police, they immediately suggested I file a police report and additionally attain a restraining order. We were then informed by law enforcement that this person was already under criminal investigation for this type of activity. It was more than apparent that, for the first time in the competition’s history, we would have to disqualify a finalist.
Last week, it became clear that he was starting to make good on his threats. In fact, as soon as this outrageous story broke, he took credit by writing on his online blog: “The town must be buzzing over this long known and even longer untold dirty secret—that was until Audrey Kelly fucked the wrong writer and TheWrap and Sharon Waxman took a stand.” The vulgar, defamatory statements were removed after our magazine’s lawyers sent him and Google cease and desist letters.
UPDATE: In the defamatory article, he is also quoted as saying, “I specifically asked her about who read and selected the winning scripts. And she said, ‘That is what the Advisory Board is for. They participate in the selection of the winners and provide notes that you’re supposed to go back and look at and work on.'” Here is our November 17, 2008 email exchange wherein I clearly state, “Our staff works on the notes…” and make no reference whatsoever to our Advisory Board:
“No good deed goes unpunished” is the expression that best describes our view as to the other disgruntled former contest finalist that took part in this story (we believe that the quotes from the two additional contestants were actually old quotes lifted off of a contest website by the reporter.) This finalist’s claim was that we promised to introduce and promote her to producers and agents then did not and had refused to give her a first place cash prize of $750 until she took the magazine to small claims court. As anyone can ascertain by reading our application, website and advertisements, only the Grand Prize winner receives introductions to the entertainment community. As a courtesy and to be supportive, within a month of her turning in her rewrite based on our detailed notes, we did email her winning script out to a number of agents and managers. Even though we made several requests, she refused to turn in her W-9 tax form and instead went on a smear campaign. The form is required by the U.S. Government prior to disbursement of all prizes totaling over $600, and we are under a legal obligation to report all winnings received by contestants to the Internal Revenue Service at the conclusion of each year.
Rather than meet with an agent who liked her script, remove her derogatory posts and simply turn in the tax form, this contestant continued with a smear campaign both online and in emails to fellow and former contestants, before finally filing a complaint against Fade In in small claims court. Ironically, she brought her signed W-9 tax form to court with her. Even more ironic, she apologized and said this was all probably a misunderstanding on her part and then requested a HUG!
UPDATE: We have since learned, via public records, that Ms. Williams, who owns and operates the “non-profit” organization Minorities in Broadcasting [aka Go Green Film Festival, HollywoodCharityAuction.com], had not filed eight (8) years worth of tax returns/annual reports, as of May 22, 2009. Here is the email from the California Attorney General’s office:
Was it really our job to do the countless hours of investigative research for Amy Kaufman and TheWrap’s story? Apparently so, as they couldn’t be bothered to find out the real story. In the published “story,” Fade In is also accused of not paying finalist Powell Weaver. We have attached Mr. Weaver’s cancelled check and signed certified mail receipt for same. We had not heard from Mr. Weaver since May of 2008.
Although we also believe 2005 finalist Craig Berger’s quote was lifted from a third party website for their story, we still find Berger’s dissatisfaction puzzling. He alleges that we told him we would help him further by sending his winning script out to agents and managers but then failed to do so. Even though he was not a Grand Prize Winner and it was not our obligation, at his request we did in fact send his screenplay to agents and managers and also to New Line Cinema and MTV Films.
Recently, Mr. Berger posted the following statement regarding the website’s derogatory story on his blog… “A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a reporter for TheWrap. The reporter wanted to know about my experiences with the Fade In screenwriting contest, as I had come in 2nd in the Comedy category in 2005. I agreed to talk with her. Probably my first mistake.”
“The reporter asked me if I was happy with my relationship with Fade In, as she [claimed she] had spoken to a number of people who had not received the prizes they were promised. I told her unequivocally that I had received everything that was promised to me. I also told her that the notes I got from [Fade In] were some of the best notes I had ever received, and that I had been a finalist or the winner in a number of contests and none of them had done more for me than Fade In.”
To read more:
Craig’s Happy Place_ Fade In_
As is mentioned on our website [http://www.fadeinawards.com], many of our competition winners have gone on to be signed by prominent talent agencies, including APA, CAA, Endeavor, ICM and William Morris, and to make successful feature films & TV shows, including:
Blades of Glory
Other winners are working steadily and have been hired to write or direct the upcoming feature films, The Art of Making Money, Daggers and Need. We believe our competition’s reputation for helping to launch the careers of very talented aspiring writers and directors speaks for itself.
Fade In supplied Amy Kaufman and TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman with the correct information prior to their publishing the false and defamatory allegations. We even pointed out our online FAQ (where the first question is, “Who judges the competition?”), our online contest page, which again clearly states who writes the analysis and advised them their sources were both unreliable and impeachable, yet they chose to ignore this information and publish inaccurate statements. I question the motivation of the company and the ethics of Amy Kaufman when a) the reporter never once asked us about any of the aforementioned finalists or their claims, and b) in their newest March 15th post the reporter claims that Doug Amaturo could not be reached for comment, when Doug called and let me know he had spoken to the reporter twice over this past weekend and also received an email from her.
“In just this past weekend, she called me a few times and we spoke,” says Amaturo. “I relayed to her that I was very disappointed that she went ahead and used my name in this damaging article towards you and Fade In when she specifically told me she would not. I told her that I thought you created a great magazine and that if I could have done everything over I would have done more to continue working with you, as you were a very generous employer, not only to me but also to everyone who worked there. Unfortunately for her, I only said nice things about you. What she’s trying to do is skew the information and rewrite the past. She wanted to ask me a few more questions so I told her to email me. I thought the questions she emailed were petty and her approach was a bit deceptive; fairly manipulative. In other words, she was fishing for too much for the sole purpose of molding the facts in her favor.”
As for the reporter’s attempt to discredit us regarding our sponsors, we called our Apple entertainment marketing contact of thirteen years, Suzanne Lindberg, who told us she doesn’t speak to reporters and has not spoken to any reporter, as it’s Apple’s policy not to speak to the media about its past sponsorships. She said they’ve been cutting all of their sponsorship deals lately. They’re just not doing it anymore. She went on to say that she did get a note from Apple’s PR department asking about the logo on our site and she advised them that she hadn’t approved anything like that lately. That Apple has sponsored the Awards before but were unable to do it anymore. (Note: The logo is still on the Awards page of our site because we have not yet updated the page to the 2009 Awards, which launch in June.)
As of this date, both the new media company and its COO/founder refuse to print retractions or remove the defamatory article and continue to defame me personally by publishing bogus statements. The facts behind each of the allegations would have been easy to investigate if there was actually any interest by them in pursuing the truth. It is both unfortunate and pathetic that this emerging media entity believes that the only way it can attract attention to its new venture is to forego journalistic ethics and publish a negative story about one of its competitors.
Nobody is above criticism and we are interested in any ideas on how we can improve both Fade In and our Awards but the claims disseminated by Amy Kaufman and TheWrap [or as the site is better known within the entertainment industry, TheCrap] are spurious. Fade In stands behind its screenwriting competition and its process. We felt it was important to bring the aforementioned facts and documentation to your attention and want to thank everyone for their emails and calls of support, including past and present contest finalists, our publication’s contributing writers and artists, industry producers, executives, agents, publicists and, of course, our Board of Advisors [who remain on our Board to this day]. There are two sides to every story and the fabricated “story” that this competing site published and this so-called journalist wrote [and we had to do the investigative reporting for] goes to show you; you should not believe everything you read on the Internet.
UPDATE: It should also be noted that Sharon Waxman and TheWrap.com have been sued numerous times now for fraud, libel and defamation. Read about one of many here:
Editor in Chief
FADE IN MAGAZINE