What I Learned From That Alec Baldwin-Dana Brunetti Twitter Fight Over My Movie (Guest Column)
In his own humorous words, 'Mini's First Time' helmer Nick Guthe shares his lessons learned on navigating a high-profile social media beef.
I live a quiet and private life. I’m on Twitter to follow breaking news and tweet occasionally at friends. Then last Wednesday, things got real.
Alec Baldwin’s memoir, Nevertheless, and a film I directed over a dozen years ago, Mini’s First Time, for 24 hours, temporarily bent the internet. It got so heated, Twitter royalty, Chrissy Teigen, finally jumped in like a digital Dalai Lama to end this Godzilla vs. Mothra battle.
The beef hit virtually every major news and entertainment site in North America. This little-seen film climbed to the No. 1 hashtag on Twitter in a matter of hours. If you’re reading this, you’re likely familiar with what happened. If not, here’s the 140 character recap:
Baldwin claims in his memoir that filmmakers deceived him on Nikki Reed’s age in 2006 film. Apocalyptic Twitter beef with producer ensues.
In Nevertheless, Alec claimed during filming he didn’t know she was 17 (16 actually) and supposedly “flipped out” at the producers at the end when he found out.
The producers and I were sent the review, and I knew Alec’s publisher had done a terrible forensic edit of the memoir. The facts were simply wrong and there was nothing inappropriate about a 16-year-old playing 18 in a film with no nudity.
I replied to the producers, with a factual email, thinking it was done. One of the producers, Oscar-nominated Dana Brunetti, no shrinking violet, was not going to let Alec’s assertion go unchallenged.
He told us to watch his Twitter and soon was quoting my email in his rebuttal and tagged my @NickGuthe account. Whoa … OK. Now I was “in” and had to decide if I was going to allow others to shape the narrative or stay out.
With their combined million-plus followers, my anonymity was out the window. I decided to try and diffuse. I fired off two pithy tweets stating I loved working with Alec on the film, but that his facts were off and hoped this would finally get @RealDonaldTrump to release his taxes.
Let’s take it down a notch, perhaps engage @POTUS and boost those DVD sales?! No dice. “Douche Nozzle” entered our lexicon.
So this is what I learned as the battled raged on:
1) Email Carefully. My email had become the spine of Dana’s argument and I was relieved that it reflected facts, not feelings.
2) No Bomb Throwing. The Twitterse is watching, in real time, by folks who screenshot. Cross the line and good luck on your run for PTA president in 2021, when Tracey Flick starts the opposition research.
3) Keep It Light. When things reached the “I’ll bury you,” “You’re already buried” level, I just felt bad. I like both these guys. Perhaps with some levity, we could all see this wasn’t Syria. I tossed in: “Team: I think I've finally got my head around a sequel. Who's in!? #MinisSecondTime”
No effect, but at least I made my point: I was going to shape my narrative. Those keeping score at home knew I knew this was reaching absurd levels.
4) When Chrissy Teigen Enters the Fray, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Chrissy is one of the Queens of Twitter, beloved, funny and clever. I’ll never forget my phone buzzed that she had tweeted at us: “I feel like I can make this all better.”
Whaaaa? Who is this? An obvy fake account. I quickly cut off three cars on the 405, veering wildly to look at my phone.
And there it was … the little blue “verified” check. I sent three more cars careening off the Mulholland Drive exit #Really #NotReally.
This was it; the chance at Twitter immortality. Chrissy has almost 5 million followers. I checked her timeline, saw she and hubby, John Legend, had recently taken a cooking class from @Outback Steakhouse and fired off: “Please Chrissy make us a bloomin onion while John plays us 'ordinary people' in a sing along.”
Time stood still. My vision blurred. More wreckage off the Wilshire exit and then “bing.” The little red “loved it” heart from the Queen appeared. #SeacrestOut, #DropsMicOrBloominOnion. In my Twitter life, I could die happy. But Chrissy had done it. Cooler heads prevailed. F— Jared Kushner. Do we really want peace in the Middle East?
5) Prepare for the Hard Truth. After all that, I had not gained thousands of new followers. I composed one more Tweet and hit “send”: “How have I only gained 12 followers from all of this?”
To my surprise, that tweet got more “likes” than any of my others. Lesson learned: Twitter loves simple and true.
Four days later, I’m up to (gasp) 265 from my original 180 followers. However, I survived with my dignity intact and a greater respect for those who understand this now required form of communication for every future president.
I know who has my vote in 2020. If anyone can bring us world peace, it’s @ChrissyTeigen.
Nick Guthe lives in Los Angeles with his family and is currently seeking treatment for Twitter PTSD.