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The Confidence Scam: A Guest Spot with Author, CS DeWildt

I don’t know if other writers feel this way. It’s not talked about. I looked for it on the web. I used Google and Bing. Still nothing. Is its absence the paradoxical proof that it’s there?

Like I said: we don’t talk about it. At least I don’t. Usually don’t. And I couldn’t find it on the web.

But I feel it.

What is the creature that stalks us in the night? Haunting us, keeping us awake on the eve of publication, the evil bogey waiting to come down the chimney. Waiting for our guard to drop and then creep in to fill his bag with our most prized, secret possession, and sweep it away, laughing and whipping his growling, red-eyed devil deer through the hellish cold and dark.

What is it? Is it just me?

Let me tell you a secret: I used to make movies. Not good ones. Fine, a couple of okay ones, short cartoons that few saw and earned me a total of five hundred-fifty dollars between a festival and a single contest. It was a good run. Filled me with confidence. Lifted me up to a new mental and emotional height of creativity. I must be good at this. They said so.

They said so.

And then came RTF, my film school thesis project.

RTF stood for Retard Task Force. Oh, it was a gem of an idea. Understand this was 2001, the beginning of the ubiquitous reality TV phenomenon. And being schooled for four years in the technique and theory of media production, I saw the building trend for what it was: ripe for satire. And that’s what the RTF was, or what it was supposed to be. Production was simple. It consisted of me shooting a bunch of volunteer actors in mismatched Goodwill garb stumbling around the parking lot of my apartment building. They drooled, moaned, and bumped into each other comically, you know, the stuff retarded people do (it’s okay, I have a retarded cousin. “Retard” is our word). The set up was that retards were running amok in society, just retarding it up all over the place see, and it was up to the Retard Task Force to solve the problem. The RTF themselves were a trio of guardian angel types in matching t-shirts who believed in the philosophy of the baseball bat. I think the leader had a back story in which his family was killed by a mob of retarded people (I honestly don’t remember. It might be wishful thinking, that I actually gave my character a back story). So we improvised a bunch of scenarios, got the footage, and went to work editing a trailer for my fictional reality show.

It went over quite well. It was satire; it spoke of the state of television and its exploitative nature. And it was funny! People laughed, so I knew it was funny. I’d conveyed my message competently, beyond competently, astutely, deftly even. I was even asked to guest speak to a class of film department newbs. RTF was a success, so I did the most logical thing.

I edited a full episode.

The new incarnation clocked in at a bloated forty-two minutes, leaving time for two parody commercials- Fulgers: the Coffee for Pedophiles (actual tagline), and Bob’s Box-o-Rama (affordable shelter for the homeless)-which actually hold up in my mind and I’m less embarrassed in recounting. I should have known there was a problem the very first time I screened it. Reception was lukewarm at best, and that was among friends, and not just friends, but film school friends. I didn’t see the problem then, having been the writer, producer, director, and editor. I had a mental context for the piece. My audience did not however, and while in the trailer version the satire was lost on no one, in the full episode it was just-


What the hell did they know about anything? I was on to the big time and a fledgling company called Atom Films or something. This again was 2001, a time where anybody could get nearly anything hosted on the site. RTF? Oh, they hosted it. I remember waiting with an anticipation like nothing I’d ever felt. Soon my work was going to be out there, available to the masses. My head was full of self congratulatory daydreams of praise and discovery by the industry.

Do I need to tell you what happened? You like posting comments in open forums? If you’ve ever been on the internet you know what was coming. The critics, billyblob711, dripping_anus12, martin_whorcese, they all gave me their two cents and it was brutal.


I was crushed. I mean it. Crushed. Call me naïve or just a plain old fool, but I really hadn’t expected the negative response. I tried, like any self respecting artist, to defend my movie with posts of my own, but it was for naught. The hyenas smelled blood. One remark that I remember specifically was that my “time would have been better spent picking up additional ours at the 7-11”. That one cut deep, not because it was particularly clever or biting in itself, but because I worked at a convenience store!

They knew.

Crushed, eviscerated, dead. I could never finish another movie. And I tried. But I really never finished another movie. I wrote them, I shot them, I even partially edited them. But they never saw an audience, because in my gut, my heart, my overactive imagination, they were all shit. I was nothing but a no-talent fraud. And they knew it.

So here I am. Ten years later. I have a book out called Candy and Cigarettes (you should buy it, it’s only two bucks). And what was my thought when I got that email, the one saying “we love it, let us publish it”, after dozens of “no’s”? I thought, what the hell is wrong with them? Don’t they know? Can’t they see I’m only posing as a writer? That all those hours in front of the keyboard and the early mornings and shirking of responsibilities and seemingly endless revisions were just a front? Set dressing for the scam? How long can I fool them? How long until they suggest I go back to the 7-11?

I read titles like Lolita (the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps…), Nabokov’s “love affair with the English language”, and I have to wonder if he ever felt this way. Did such a master of prose, and style, and story, and humor ever feel the fear? Hemingway and his beautiful brevity, reality stripped bare, boiled to its elements, able to convey so much with so little. Did he have the fear? McCarthy, Orwell, Vonnegut, Theroux, Palahniuk, Faulkner, O’Conner, Burgess, Plath- the men and women I love- did they feel the fear?

And again and again I come to the same answer.

I don’t know. We don’t like to talk about it.

And that I do know.

I checked on the Internet.


CS DeWildt lives with his wife and sons in Tucson Arizona. His novelette Candy and Cigarettes (2011, Vagabondage Press) is currently available for download.

Check my review HERE, there is also a 3 EBook giveaway!


  1. Hmm...I vaguely recall being in one of your movies. Possibly about a janitor shot at a Alward School? Anyways, congrats on getting your book published!!

    Zach (Fu)


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