update: a man claiming to have an Oscar (he doesn’t) wants to give me advice on my field (that he’s not in)

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who was contacted by a man claiming to have an Oscar (he didn’t) and wanting to give her advice on her field (that he’s not in)? Here’s the update.

I am so appreciative of the advice I received from you, Captain Awkward and the community. Reading through the outrageous stories that other women have had to face from know-it-all colleagues was therapeutic.

There’s a part of me that wanted to put him in his place because it’s long past time for deluded people to be called out, but your advice about whether I wanted to teach him a lesson is what gave me pause. I did want to teach him a lesson. And that just made the whole thing feel not worth it.

I decided to use Captain Awkward’s technique, maybe not so snarky, but only if he ever reached out again. Not to use the word “assistant” so many times because I have hired plenty of PAs, but just to keep coming back to him with questions to hopefully get him to realize it was never his place to offer advice. Since he never did reach out again, there isn’t some satisfying ending with awesome comebacks I can offer your readers.

My main doc participant, who is a Black woman, is on a journey of radical self-care and rest, and I am documenting that as part of the work that she does. And I’m taking a page from her and trying to build in my own processes for engaging in self-care (not spa days) so I don’t burn out, because while my work is so rewarding, it can be really draining and painful too.

This means that I am taking stock of what fuels me in my professional and personal life, and what doesn’t. What am I capable of holding and what I am not? What do I need to let go of trauma both in the workplace and in my personal life? How can I fill my own cup before trying to fill the cups of others? And how can I build structure and support from my communities to meet me in supporting my newfound boundaries? A response to micro or macro aggressions needs to pass a litmus test to ensure that it doesn’t harm me in my vision of radical self care.

Onto some happy updates. I found a wonderful intern to work with from my alma mater, who is an emerging woman of color filmmaker. Her contributions were crucial in getting our footage prepped and ready for our editor to work with it, among many other tasks she held together. Since I wrote to you, I was awarded two grants which paid for the intern’s salary, and also supported our editor in cutting a short film that we launched in November to help us get the word out about our feature. I’m super proud of what we accomplished and I always smile through the credits which show just how inclusive and diverse our crew is.

The short film found its way to several interested parties who have now offered donations and other support for the longer film to come. I have also since partnered with a producer whose energy and experience really jive with the topic and with me, and we’re headed out on an adventure in a couple of months to document the radical rest storyline (and this shoot is fully funded, thanks to the short film). I’m happy and hopeful about this doc and the potential to share an empowering story of a Black woman making waves in her industry.

I feel like the act of me as a brown woman directing this film, along with the people and themes present in it, both challenge and disrupt white supremacist structures in each of our professional industries. Whether or not I choose to respond to douchebags like Mr. Oscar in the future (and preserving my self-care will always come first thanks to my boundaries), I feel like I’m still doing my part to make sure that my industry makes room for people like me. Thank you for your advice and for being a part of my journey!

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. anonymous 5*

    I will totally understand if you don’t want to out yourself here but…would you be willing to update with the final title of the film once it’s ready for viewing? Because this project sounds amazing.
    HUGE congrats on everything that you’ve done to bring it to this point, and here’s to lots more success!!

    1. Lady Danbury*

      + to watching the film when it becomes available. It sounds awesome! Congratulations on all of the progress you’ve made since your original question!

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      Yes, that was going to be my question also. If you can share the final title without self-outing, that would be great.
      Otherwise I hope you get lots and lots of publicity and that I hear about your work through other sources!
      (My sources: reading the Washington Post and the NY Times online; listening (sporadically) to the NPR programs “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Weekend Edition,” “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” and “It’s Been a Minute” with Sam Sanders. I don’t do podcasts or Twitter or other social media. I may not be your target demographic.)
      Best wishes for your future work and self-care. You sound amazing.

    3. CarCarJabar*

      Waiting for the day that OP returns to tell us “Oh, did you see that amazing woman of color who won an Academy Award last night- that was MEEEEE!”

    4. Lexica*

      Hearing this update makes me very happy. Dear OP, if at some time in the future someone here happens to mention an amazing movie that’s recently been released that we all might want to check out, I resolutely promise not to put A + B together.

      1. DataEnthusiast*

        What a wonderful, thoughtful update. I really hope to be able to view the doc once it’s available. Will keep my eyes pealed!!

      2. Peter*

        If you still want to keep some reasonable doubt, perhaps Alison could provide a list of suggestions in which your project happens to be one of many?
        It sounds as though you’re part of a group that could provide such a list without too much effort – though obviously you’re under no obligation to do so.

    5. Captain Lance*

      I was gonna say the same thing, I want to know what this film is so that if it’s possible, I can find a legal way to watch it!

  2. Scotlibrarian*

    I’m so pleased with this update as I’ve often wondered what happened. I’m so pleased for you OP that things are going so well and that your radical self care includes not wasting time with gobshites. Your film sounds amazing! I’m here cheering you and your participants on

  3. Syzygy*

    This is so satisfying to read! Thanks for letting us know – and thanks for moving on with strength and thoughtfulness. Your work is important in so many ways, from the documentary you produce to the people you work with along the way. Good luck with the rest of the project!

  4. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    This may be a side issue but I’m thrilled that you made paying your intern a priority. On behalf of many former interns, thank you for helping to change the culture of internships!

    1. Oscar OP*

      This was imperative for me! In our industry it’s not just interns who work for no pay. Doc projects are often started with little capital and people working for “deferred pay” but it’s just not sustainable and I won’t be a part of that system anymore.

      1. Candi*

        That sounds suspiciously like a new small business paying its people in stock options. And just as shady.

  5. Middle Name Danger*

    Not the point of this update, but: We LOVE a paid internship. Thank you for using your grant on that, OP. Especially in entertainment of any kind, that’s so rare.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Great to hear about your success, and the “we paid our intern” was the icing on the update cupcake!

  6. Purple Cat*

    The update might not be “flashy” but it is deeply satisfying.
    Great work OP and I hope you’ll be able to share the name of the film at some point!

  7. Lizzo*

    While I am all for smashing the patriarchy, I am also all for expending energy *only* on the things that are worth it, and that have kickass ROI.
    Well done, OP, on so many fronts! And I +1 the request to know more about this film once it’s ready for public consumption!

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. Sometimes the best update is, “Annoying Dude has left me alone ever since, and I put my energy into things that matter, like making sure my intern gets paid and getting funding for an awesome project.”

  8. Empress Matilda*

    This is a fantastic update – congratulations on all your hard work and success so far!

  9. Imaginary Friend*

    Wow, I remember this letter, but if you’d asked me, I would have said it was from Capt Awkward. (Alison, I hope you understand this as a compliment!)

    1. Imaginary Friend*

      (And I posted this comment before I read Alison’s reply, which references the good Captain herself. LOL!)

  10. Dark Macadamia*

    This was the update I was most interested to hear! I’m glad the Award Winner didn’t continue to “advise” you, even though we miss out on the entertainment value of his audacity, lol. You and your projects sound amazing, LW!

  11. anonymous73*

    Great update, but curious…why did you engage with this man to begin with? You put up a job ad, and instead of applying for the job he offered you unsolicited advice? I would have ignored him and not given him the opportunity to try and inflate his ego.

    1. Moose*

      OP specifies in her original question that he had the same name as a filmmaker whose work she knows, and that the group they’re both apart of was very friendly so she wanted to continue that.

    2. Caliente*

      This sounds a lot like victim blaming. Why does it matter if she didn’t do what you would have from the beginning? She rectified the situation. And she’ll know better next time. Its called gaining experience.

  12. Dust Bunny*

    I know you didn’t get to use it but to keep coming back to him with questions to hopefully get him to realize it was never his place to offer advice is such a great idea that you should never, ever, forget it and definitely use it if one of these bozos tries to waste your time again.

    1. Mstr*

      I think this is a waste of time. You could just tell the person directly, “no thanks I don’t think your an appropriate fit for my project” or whatever & move on! Otherwise it’s like offering someone a job interview just so you can drill them on technical questions you know they can’t answer … it’s just rude for the sake of being rude. And you’re giving the person more attention than he deserves. Besides which, what if he never realizes he isn’t helping you. That hour wasted is time you could be spending on the actual project or interviewing interns or whatever.

      1. Oscar OP*

        Mmm I wasn’t trying to interview him or spend an hour on a response.

        It could have gone like this

        Him: here’s some mansplaining advice
        Me: I’m curious what about me made you think I needed advice?
        Him: hey I was just trying to help and be friendly
        Me: why did you think I needed help?

        You know what I mean? But anyway, this ended up not being the way and I’m happy about that.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I’m happy for your sake. Mansplainers will mansplain, they won’t be swayed by any explanations, so why waste everyone’s time, especially your own?

          1. BubbleTea*

            I think there is often value in doing this in public, for instance on Twitter. When I can be bothered, I adopt an attitude of curious ignorance and enquire about citations, sources and edge case scenarios. Typically they reveal themselves to be bloviating. Sometimes I have my mind changed. Occasionally they descend into insults and ad hominem attacks. I stay above that, and onlookers see the facts behind the argument (or lack of facts as is often the case).

            And very occasionally, I get to respond like the woman in the original mansplaining scenario did.

            Mansplainer: *bloviates ignorantly* and what do you know about it anyway? Are you an expert?
            Me: as a matter of fact, yes. I have a Masters in [topic] and have built my career in this area. I wondered if maybe I’d missed some critical new research but it sounds like I did not.
            Mansplainer: *silence*

            1. Candi*

              I know what you mean. When someone is posting nonsense or worse in public, the responses need to be about those who read the responses, so they get valid information and reinforcement that some things are just wrong. (Links. All the links.)

              In a private conversation, it’s entirely up to the one having their foot stepped on* to decide whether to take the footstepper to account.

              *Hershele Ostropoler foot-stepping analogy

  13. Wisteria*

    just to keep coming back to him with questions to hopefully get him to realize it was never his place to offer advice.

    He was never going to realize that, no matter how many questions you could have come back to him with. Your conclusion that teaching lessons is not worth it is a good one. Some things, you just have to let go of, even when they are aggressions.

  14. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    That’s amazing–good for you!! If it’s okay with Allison, please update us if/when the doc is playing at festivals (for me, Hot Docs in Toronto).

    All the best!

  15. Phil*

    Congratulations. I was in the TV and movie businesses and I know how hard it is to get ANYTHING made.

  16. I edit everything*

    It took me a long time to realize that self care =/= spa days and other indulgences, but boundaries and actually *working* on ourselves and addressing our stressors. So glad to see OP talk about that in this update.

  17. AnonForNow*

    On a related note, in addition to being so, SO thrilled for your success, I just want to thank you, as a Black woman, for making a documentary on how we can radically self-care.

    The last two months have been exhausting on my end, and after hearing it from more than one medical professional during that time, I’m finally trying to *truly* take care of myself – give myself grace, give myself a break, and genuinely acknowledge my personhood by creating proper boundaries. It’s not always easy to do in this skin, and I’m encouraged by stories of other Black women who find ways to do it. Your work is so important, and so many of us are cheering you on from the sidelines!

    (P.S. I’ll be scanning the headlines for a documentary on Black women and radical self-care in the next few months, just in case you don’t want to self-identify here – which is totally your prerogative!)

    Sending you positive vibes and restful energy :).

    1. Oscar OP*

      You’re super kind, thank you for commenting. Here’s to all of us normalizing self-care and true rest and recuperation, feeding our souls with exactly what we need.

  18. Regina Phalange*

    The work being done by the woman in the film OP discusses sounds very similar to the Nap Ministry (maybe it is!), who I highly recommend checking out on Instagram. Their work is pretty incredible.

  19. Cat Lady*

    Oh my god, I remember reading the original letter and being so exasperated on OP’s behalf. I’m happy to hear that you’re focusing your energy on the things and people that fulfill you! I hope you continue to be successful.

  20. TiredMama*

    This update is everything. Thank you for taking time to share. I hope to see your work someday.

  21. DJ Abbott*

    You said “jive with” to describe your relationship with your producer.
    One of my hobbies is jive dancing and I love how perfectly that describes a creative relationship.
    Jive dancing looks like swing, but is completely different. It’s a traditional dance to 50’s rock ‘n’ roll in which the main feature is tension between the partners. The partners push on each other and challenge each other and that’s what makes it fun and exciting. :)

    1. Candi*

      I first jive on a movie and it was lame.

      I later saw a jive dancing competition and it was amazing.

      Definitely want to go for the second type in a good creative relationship!

      1. DJ Abbott*

        :). The jive in the movie was probably choreographed. Real jive is improvisational, like swing. It’s so much fun!

  22. Jesshereforthecomments*

    Can we know what the short film is? I’m not sure if the blog rules allow for that, and I’m not asking LW to reveal personal info. I want to support the film if possible!

    1. I believe I can fly*

      Of course she needs to tell us the name. I expect assistant producer credit I post on my linked in because I offered very sound advice to the original post. Clearly OP would not have finished with my efforts.
      OP, im just going post this in my LinkedIn. Did you get my connection request? Your intern must have lost it.

  23. Anti mansplaining at all times*

    Could this be about Rachel Cargle?! Wishing you success on this project, and thank you for the update!!

  24. Biziki*

    I want to see this so much! But in the meantime, and so LW doesn’t have to out herself if she doesn’t want to, everyone please tell me about your fav radical community/self-care, rest, anti-capitalism, QTBIPOC resources?

    1. Candi*

      One thing I try is avoiding “just one more thing” before I take a break. That “one more thing” can extend for hours. Great for delaying high-calorie snacks, not so good when it means delaying delicious nutritious food, sleep, and general relaxing.

  25. Retired Prof*

    Really great update. I love your point that responding to offenses from others should not cause injury to yourself. You talked about “teaching him a lesson”. “Teaching a lesson” never includes much teaching or much learning — just revenge. It reminds me of the saying that holding onto anger is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. So smart of you to just let it go.

    1. Mstr*

      Thank goodness she let it go instead of following all the bad advice to “get him” somehow … that time is much better spent focusing on the project and doing valuable work. I think about all the 100s of thousands of times some dude has been inappropriate with me — if i spent that much time on each one, even the length of time to write the letter to AAM and read the comments — my whole life would be eaten up. Just keep it moving, especially when working on a project that is doing a social good. How I wish we could correct every inappropriate man (but there’s no quick and easy way to do that even case by case). We gotta focus on living our best lives in spite of, not living our lives in response to.

      1. Oscar OP*

        Your response seems super dismissive. I took the path I took, for better or worse. And to call out shitty people to their face or in front of others is also not a wrong path. And to take the time to write a letter to AAM and read the comments is also not a wrong path. Maybe you do you and I’ll do me. People can smash the patriarchy any old way they want and I’m not gonna judge them for it, personally.

        1. Candi*

          I think you’re great, OP. You did what was best for you; next time someone steps on your foot*, you’ll do what’s best for you then.

          I find comments and stories useful. By knowing what other people do and what they think, it’s easier for me to get my thoughts in order and decide what I want to do. (The “and you are not wrong” helps too!)

          *Hershele Ostropoler’s foot-stepping analogy

  26. Boof*

    Thanks for the update OP! Glad you are seeing success and despite the lack of zingers I’m actually a bit relieved you didn’t waste more precious energy on that person. The whole intro was just so redic it’s hard to imagine anything would have really gotten through to them; in this case sounds like the way you won was not to play XD

  27. Good Vibes Steve*

    I’m SO glad you updated OP! There’s a special kind of people like that out there (mostly men to be honest).
    I’ve had an encounter with one fairly recently. Self aggrandizing, stretching the truth so far that it snaps… The best (worst?) example? “I was talking to Barack Obama about this one day…” uh, pardon? He didn’t seem AT ALL like someone senior enough to have passing conversations with a former president, so I probed a bit, and then some more, and the truth was, he’s once been in the audience when BO gave a speech to about 1000 people, and decided he could pass this off as a one on one, intimate conversation.
    The best you can do with people like that is to stop paying attention.

    1. Candi*


      My dad was genuinely the gardener for a state senator -the senator was one of his freelance clients. I never thought to parlay that into “we totally know each other well” stories.

      I admit to, when a particularly bad boss asked what my dad did for a living, mentioning the senator along with a couple other locally high-profile clients when telling said boss. Bad boss did happen to behave better after that, not just to me, but to other workers when I was around. (Totally innocent angelic face.)

      Sadly, that contract ended when the senator died and his wife decided not to keep dad on.

  28. The answer is (probably) 42*

    You know what is gonna happen though- when OP wins accolades for her work, this dude is 100% going to mention on his LinkedIn that he “mentored” her or was a “key advisor on the production” or some such nonsense.

    I’m buying some microwave popcorn in advance so I have it ready to go the instant that happens.

  29. Candi*

    Hey, Alison, if the OP sends you an update that their film is done, could you just happen to recommend it, without naming names so OP can remain anonymous? (After watching it, of course.)

  30. LOL, No.*

    I really didn’t care for Captain Awkward’s original response. I thought it was a lot of energy to waste on somebody you’ll never talk to, so it’s best to just not reply. Not to mention it’s a bad look for your own career to escalate with a snarky, condescending, patronizing response to someone who was only a little pompous. Talk about a massive overreaction. It’s really unprofessional and inappropriate.

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