The dos and don'ts of getting ambushed with a camera
May 16, 2012 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I recently discovered that someone I dated a few years back (it ended badly) is the subject of a soon-to-be-filmed documentary in which he "gets back" at all the people who have romantically wronged him in the past. The production has a crew, a blog, and a fundraising page. The copy implies that the "getting back" will occur in-person. What is the best way to behave if one finds themselves ambushed by a documentary crew, possibly in a prank-like situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
"No comment" and no signature on the release.
posted by headnsouth at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [40 favorites]

Don't sign the release form. Tell them that if they use your likeness, you will sue them.
posted by mkb at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2012 [28 favorites]

If you get ambushed then just keep walking, don't talk to them, don't make eye contact, et cetera. Don't engage at all.

Don't sign a release.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's probably impractical to go around all the time armed with little explosive blood packs embedded in your clothes to simulate a sudden assassination attempt.

Practice yodeling?

Depending on how it's done and your need to sign a waiver, I'd just ignore them and keep moving, get a restraining order if necessary.
posted by tilde at 12:15 PM on May 16, 2012

Have a friend who is a lawyer? Send a letter on legal letterhead making it clear that you do not want to participate. Other than that, I think a compassionate but firm response is good: "I'm sorry that you're hurting, but this is not okay. Please leave me alone. "
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:17 PM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

Among the things others have mentioned, you could film them back. Do you have a smartphone or small digital camera that has the storage and ability to take 10-15 minutes of video at a stretch? It will likely put them off balance, and it will help keep them honest.
posted by Good Brain at 12:22 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

To my knowledge, even if you don't sign the release form, they can still use footage with your face screened out (unless you specifically request that they don't). I wouldn't want to engage with him or legitimize this at all, so I wouldn't bother to go that far.

If you are approached, maintain a friendly and calm tone of voice, say hello, don't do anything that makes you look crazy (wild arm movements, etc), and say that you're sorry but you must be going. And then turn and walk away.
posted by phunniemee at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Look at what politicians and celebrities do. "Please don't film me. I didn't agree to be filmed by you. I have no comment" in a firm, businesslike tone.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:28 PM on May 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

IDK about sending a lawyer's letter to opt out beforehand, actually. I'd imagine anyone vindictive and attention-needy like this dude seems to be would just go ahead and use that letter in a special segment of the documentary to mock you for preemptively avoiding the situation, a la "lol she thought she was important enough to me to be filmed in the first place," etc. (can you have a lawyer write a letter saying not to use the letter? hm.)
posted by elizardbits at 12:34 PM on May 16, 2012 [16 favorites]

I'd get a restraining order. You have no idea what he and his filmcrew consider acceptable behavior - and "getting back at you" seems pretty damn ominous. It could be anything from verbal confrontation (best case scenario) to assault and property damage (he takes a fire hose to you or spray paints your car).

He has vocalized a threat against you. Get a lawyer and get a restraining order.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:36 PM on May 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

I agree with elizardbits - sending a lawyer's letter in advance will only guarantee that they put you in their sites.

You best bet is what the first few posters said: Stay calm. Walk away. Say only "no comment". Do not sign anything.
posted by Flood at 12:36 PM on May 16, 2012

I would honestly talk to a lawyer about this, see if there's any way you can get some kind of injunction against this guy coming after you. Seriously shitty behavior on my part, I'm feeling seriously angry at this guy just sitting over here at my computer. I would find a lawyer and see what your legal options are for mounting a preemptive defense of some kind.
posted by Scientist at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I like the idea of saying nice things about this jerk. Perfect way to spoil his plans!
posted by KokuRyu at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Documentaries shot in public spaces do not require releases from their subjects, by and large. The first amendment generally permits the use of footage shot in public for news purposes, documentaries and narrative television. Nor is it very likely you will be able to obtain some form of prior restraint against someone purporting to film a documentary.

In my opinion your best strategy is to provide them as little useful material as possible. Do not engage, do not comment and remove yourself from their cameras as expeditiously as possible.
posted by Lame_username at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

He has vocalized a threat against you.

No, the OP found out about this from a website. The ex-boyfriend in question hasn't contacted the OP, as far as I can tell from the question.
posted by elizardbits at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

What you can't control: They can film you in public.
What you CAN control: What, if anything, you say. Say nothing beyond I have no comment.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:40 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would politely disagree with Flood and elizardbits - this is a professional film crew who is quite literally out to get you, to humiliate you publicly. They are going to get their pound of flesh from you one way or the other - if the worst they do is read your lawyer's letter mockingly in their movie, you've won as much as you can win.

Have you ever been in the glare of a camera and lights? Howabout while someone you were once involved in is trying to humiliate you? Can you really practice for that? You don't know what he's going to do, so you can't assume it will be harmless, or that you will react as cooly under fire as a professional actor (he's starring in his own movie, for crying out loud.)

Heads this right off at the pass.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:43 PM on May 16, 2012

Yes, check with a lawyer, but if you cannot prevent contact: The suggestions above - ignore and walk away; politely say hello, I must be going; return insults with compliments - are all fine options, but you need to answer it yourself.

Imagine you were watching the documentary. What could the victim of the ambush do that would make you most sympathetic to her or him? Do you think you could act that way? Then do.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:46 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

No, the OP found out about this from a website. The ex-boyfriend in question hasn't contacted the OP, as far as I can tell from the question.

He has expressed publicly an intent to gain revenge on those he was romantically involved with. That's a public, documented threat, unless he gets real specific about the nature and scope of the revenge immediately. At the very best it will be harassment - which is against the law most places - at the worst, it will assault or vandalism.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:47 PM on May 16, 2012

If you're straight-up ambushed in a public place, try ducking into a popular, name-brand store. The camera crew might be able to screw with a person, but if you go into a business that has an image to maintain, the store's employees are more than likely instructed to keep out anyone with cameras.

(The reason I say a popular, name-brand store is because Gap, Inc. is a lot more likely to have their own lawyers and be willing to spend their own money to keep out idiots with cameras than, say, Mom and Pop's Hardware Shop.)
posted by griphus at 12:47 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]

Also, be aware that when the "revenge" is taking place it might not be readily obvious that it's him. It could just seem like some ordinary frustrating event in your life. Have you ever watched any of those reality tv prank shows? There are all sorts of scenarios they put people in like making them think their car has been towed, that their waiter deliberately served them spoiled food, etc. So if anything kind of frustrating happens to you IRL, be aware that's what could be going on.
posted by cairdeas at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2012 [13 favorites]

How is this not harassment? I get that you can film people in public spaces, but how is declaring your intent to "get back" at somebody on camera not declaring an intent to harass them? Is there really no way that you can legally enjoin somebody not to deliberately make you miserable on camera and then broadcast it to the world? I would still seek out legal advice in this matter.
posted by Scientist at 12:58 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you ever been in the glare of a camera and lights? How about while someone you were once involved in is trying to humiliate you? Can you really practice for that?

A few years ago, while walking around the Loop in Chicago, a friend and I got ambushed by a film crew shooting a promo for the Spike channel. The show was going to be called Sex Kittens, and the premise was that they would take unattractive/plain women on the street and turn them into ("bangable") lingerie-clad hot chicks.

The group of guys formed a circle around us, making it difficult to physically leave, had mics shoved in our faces, and kept "negging" us (didn't even know it was a thing at the time, live and learn) to get us to agree to come back to their lair and film a segment for them.

We both responded about as well as we possibly could in that situation, having never experienced anything like it before: "really? that sounds like a pretty lame show concept," "yeah, like I'm going to follow a group of bros wearing 'Sex Kitten' t-shirts into a hotel room alone, THAT'S a good idea" etc, and basically just laughed it off while trying to push past them. Eventually they gave up on us, parted, and let us through.

We were approached about a half a block later by a really normal-looking, bubbly woman with a clip board asking us to "just sign a few papers saying you've been interviewed." Uh, no. Don't think so.

Long story short: you CAN practice for that. Be prepared to be in a really stupid, obnoxious situation that is hard to remove yourself from, be prepared to possibly be insulted, and have a few basic, polite, but firm phrases to drop when needed. Don't give them anything interesting, be extremely nice and boring, and for chrissakes don't sign ANYTHING. (But you knew that already.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2012 [67 favorites]

1. Consult with a lawyer - on mature reflection, I think folks are right that a pre-emptive letter would be a bad idea if it can be made light of on film, but that might not be the case. Consult a lawyer and find out.

Also ask the lawyer precisely what laws govern the use of your image, pranks, etc. Like, is it different if they lie to you on camera about your house being burned down or something and then show it with your face blanked out? If they play a complicated prank on you, do they require a release more than if they just interview you? How much "prank" can they commit, legally? Can they do something really ghastly like grab your bag or pretend they're going to assault you and then say "lol just kidding" after you've burst into hysterical tears?

2. Practice responding to things. Have a bunch of practice conversations with a friend where they pretend to be your ex or pretend to be someone trying to humiliate or frighten you. Don't be afraid to have a little fun with this - try to get into an "I am powerful, I handle the craziest things with aplomb!" headspace.

I've been to some very useful role-play based trainings - it sounds like a bunch of HR-hippie woo but it can be very useful.

3. Bear in mind that if this dude does anything really cruel, he is going to look far worse and more insane than you. If he does anything besides try to interview you, he will look like a fucking loon and - although he may get some traction with the Maxim (do they publish that anymore) set, almost everyone else (future girlfriends, family, non-media future employers) will think he's a sociopathic creep. Because it's creepy to obsess about your exes and film yourself "getting back at them"!!! It's creepy and gross and stupid.

I'd be nervous too if I were you, but please keep in mind that worst case scenarios (this type of thing has actually been an anxiety-trigger/disastering-generator for me for years) are much, much worse to contemplate than to live through.
posted by Frowner at 1:03 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sucks that you think he's planning this. What a pain. Talk to a lawyer in advance, and see if there's any legal recourse. It seems like you're going to be living on edge for a while, and htat stinks.

If there's any kind of fan site, you can sign up under an alias (or get a friend to) - it would be good to stay abreast of what they're doing, are they filming, did they run into legal glitches with some other ex and go on pause before they even got to you, etc.
Given that their goal is to prank the exes, not the exes and their friends and cousins, maybe spending most of your public-space time with groups of people (but not as a couple with a current partner) would be a good idea.

cairdeas is right - any odd situation might be the leadup to this. Be on guard, meaning be prepared to shrug and smile every time something goes wrong, and be as bland as possible (until you can establish that no, this is a genuine idiot you're dealing with, unrelated to any prank), and make it a habit to read every piece of paper you're handed.
Practice feeling nothing for him. Practice feeling mild pity for his self-absorption. "oh, is this EX's movie thingy? Bless his heart." Practice your zen-like calm.
posted by aimedwander at 1:08 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh, and totally be ready to film them back. Especially if they circle you and won't let you leave. Just stand there asking to leave and filming them. I've been in a variety of media/radical/cop situations where filming totally changes the dynamic. This was around people who actually could have physically assaulted me - I've been part of projects where we've gotten a variety of truly nasty people to stand down.

They will not be willing to assault you to take your camera - that's pretty much outside the limits of this sort of project. So if you're filming and asking to leave, they're probably going to let you go pretty fast.

I'd save that one for if you're actually scared or being held against your will, though. If you can handle things by saying as little as possible as pleasantly as possible, do that instead.

Get a flipcam - they're cheap, easy to use and the new models pick up sound even in a busy outdoor setting really well. Practice using it until you can start filming quickly and easily; keep it accessible.
posted by Frowner at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

In many states, the right of publicity laws might treat a commercial show such as this differently than a news broadcast. If that is the case in your jurisdiction, then refusing to sign any release might provide you some protection.

If it's not an undue financial hardship, I would do a search for lawyer in your jurisdiction and pay the couple of hundred dollars to know what the ground rules are.

And, as phunniemee alludes to, don't sign anything they give you, no matter how they characterize it. (At least not without review by your lawyer, off-camera)
posted by mercredi at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2012

When everything's over, after you've shown the world what a nice guy you are, make sure you quietly say "Boy, am I glad we broke up". This moron is pretty much letting you know they were NOT someone you want to have a relationship with.
posted by Tarumba at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Say nothing. Don't sign the release form. Film everything with your phone.

I'd also be tempted to look at them blankly and say who, like he was so unimportant to you that you completely forgot he existed if they do confront you .. . .and then refuse to sign anything.
posted by wwax at 1:19 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'd call 911. Let them film you telling the police that an ex is stalking you and you are in fear for your safety. That's not footage they'll want on the show.
posted by kjs3 at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [18 favorites]

Don't engage, period. And if they touch you or entrap you in any manner, scream "help" as loud as you can.
posted by HuronBob at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is the best way to behave if one finds themselves ambushed by a documentary crew, possibly in a prank-like situation?

Well, I'd hire Gloria Allred to send them a cease and desist letter, myself.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:29 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's the thing about the lawyer letter--this dude is likely a bully and he also needs financial backing (unless he's rich).

The point of a letter is to make you less attractive as a target, more of a liability, etc. than the other people he could possibly harass. Even if you couldn't win any kind of legal action against him, the fact that you're willing to go there can be a significant deterrent. Or not.

A good lawyer could tell you more, I'm sure.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:37 PM on May 16, 2012

It may be easier to think about this as a damage control problem instead of prevention. There is no way to stop him from trying to find you, or Googlebombing you, or orchestrating a social media campaign against you. What you can do is damage control and reframe. Trying to stop this from happening or the film from being distributed will lead to the Streisand Effect. What you're facing is a romantic version of James O'Keefe. Little can be done to stop him from filming (his right to free speech is as sacred as yours, after all), but you can give him nothing to work with.

Do not have a lawyer send them a threatening letter before they even show up. This letter will be read with the greatest mocking tone imaginable into the documentary.

IANAL, and I don't know your jurisdiction, but it's hard enough to get a restraining order against someone who is already stalking you, it is highly unlikely you'll be granted one on the off chance a documentary crew may or may not come by.

Keep a camera on you. Once they actually do come by, I agree with suggestions above to film the encounter for yourself so that you have a record. At this point it may be easier to get a restraining order (which will also be read into the documentary with the greatest mocking tone).

Sign nothing they give you. You cannot prevent them from filming you in a public place. Refuse to comment in a fashion that gives exceedingly boring footage. No gestures, flatly delivered in a monotone. If they touch you, you have footage and can hit them for assault. If you don't sign a waiver, they can proceed at their own risk but they'll likely shy away from it in favor of less resistance.

Guy like him probably has enough ex-girlfriends without you who will give good footage.

You could, of course, try to hit back with offense by orchestrating a shame campaign on social media. This would take considerably more effort, and is more risky, but it's worth thinking about.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2012

Documentaries shot in public spaces do not require releases from their subjects, by and large. The first amendment generally permits the use of footage shot in public for news purposes, documentaries and narrative television.

Actually, I don't think this applies in this instance. I worked in reality TV and docs for years and every time we had to film in public, if we didn't have either signed releases from people OR if we hadn't put up a sign indicating that we were filming and entering whatever establishment constituted a release (which is what you'd do if we were filming in a club or something), we couldn't use them. We could blur them, but if you have interaction with the person in question, you generally need a release, and blurred out footage is really not that useable. So don't sign a release. But more importantly: just don't give him any useable material. If something happens, have no reaction. No reaction = boring material and you won't end up in the finished project. I would actually consider pretending you don't know him and don't remember him at all, because that's humiliating for him but non-aggressive, and extra unlikely to make the cut.

I wouldn't deal with a lawyer just yet. Remember, lots of projects have crews and blogs and NEVER see the light of day. ESPECIALLY if he needs funding, this is pretty unlikely to actually ever be seen by the public at large -- it's not like he's going on a CW show that punks people on the regular. Especially given that he isn't backed by a proper production company, I would be on alert, but not actually worry that much about it.

This guy, FWIW, also sounds like a total tool.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:44 PM on May 16, 2012 [20 favorites]

If you really think there is a halfway decent chance you might be approached by this film crew, then it might be worth your time to talk with a lawyer. Look up your state's bar association referral service. Often you can get a brief initial meeting for a very low rate. The reason I say this is that as I'm sitting here reading your question, as an attorney myself, I can think of several things I would tell a client who walked in with your story. And that's without really getting to have a conversation with you.

If you look into it and you discover that meeting with an attorney would cost you more than $50, then forget it. But some referral services will give you a $25 or $30 consultation...and yeah, I could see giving you $30 worth of advice on this.

More generally, speaking only to the question of "How might a person behave if she didn't want to appear on camera," I would echo most of the advice above: Do not participate, do not sign anything, and physically walk away as soon as you can. The only thing I would add is that instead of saying "No comment" (which isn't really relevant anyway), I would probably take the trouble to explicitly state for the benefit of their cameras and microphones, "Please do not film, record, or broadcast me."
posted by cribcage at 2:07 PM on May 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Do not have a lawyer send them a threatening letter before they even show up. This letter will be read with the greatest mocking tone imaginable into the documentary.

IANAL, and I don't know your jurisdiction, but it's hard enough to get a restraining order against someone who is already stalking you, it is highly unlikely you'll be granted one on the off chance a documentary crew may or may not come by.

This lawyer disagrees. Consult a lawyer if you are at all concerned about this. I am not your lawyer, just telling you to get a lawyer.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:13 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

The only good answer here is to call a lawyer and ask what your recourse is and how you can protect yourself. That is all. I think taking some control of the situation that way will also help give you a little peace of mind.
posted by anonnymoose at 2:25 PM on May 16, 2012

Sorry if someone mentioned this but what about continously saying "I think you have the wrong person" even if they directly ask you your name and ask if you know this guy...or even if its him. And keep walking. This way if you are blanked out afterward people will still not be sure if its you.
posted by Busmick at 2:26 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Seconding Ironmouth: Gloria Allred. MeMail me for an anecdote that I don't want connected to my profile.
posted by purpleclover at 2:30 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

First, creepy as hell and you should be thankful daily that you had the sense to remove yourself from the relationship.

I'd try to decide how likely something like this is to materialize before doing anything expensive or drastic. If he needs fundraising that means he's not being bankrolled by a tv station and there's a good chance that all you're looking at is some losers revenge fantasy. I like the advice about getting handy with your phones video camera system or a pocket sized video system that's easily accessible and quick to get going.

If you do feel that this is likely to go further than some jerks blog on the internet, by all means speak to a lawyer and prepare yourself mentally for the worst dirty laundry from your relationship to be brought up. Train yourself to hear something so convoluted and nasty that you want to vomit, and listen to it without any visible reaction. Shows like this get their best reactions from blindsiding unfortunate individuals who didn't see it coming. You have the advantage of knowing it's (possibly) on its way and can prepare yourself. You may not be able to prevent them from filming you, but you can absolutely deny them any sort of useful footage.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 2:30 PM on May 16, 2012

Start singing a song that they could never get the license to include in the movie. For instance, "Happy Birthday" or - following 30 Rock - "Uptown Girl".
posted by SugarFreeGum at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2012 [19 favorites]

Do you have a way of contacting any of his other exes? Contact them and tell them this is happening.
posted by Hogshead at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

An addendum to my early suggestions: IF on the off chance they do approach you and you have a smart phone, the instant you realize what's happening, call up your music library and play the Beatles with the volume all the way turned up. You won't be mic'ed, so it will be hard for them to drop out the music to pump up anything you may say and the Beatles will NEVER allow the music to be cleared for broadcast (unless your wronged ex is Matt Weiner).
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [20 favorites]

SugarFreeGum's idea is pure genius, and it'll give you something to do to "prepare."

Pick a really, really recognizable song by someone who is extremely unlikely to license rights to anything. Something by The Beatles would be a great pick. When you're feeling anxious about this, calm yourself by practicing the song. If these pendejos actually show up, (and after you give them Cribcage's line ("Please do not film, record, or broadcast me.") you can burst into the song and use it as a sort of weaponized version of the old "La, la, la, I can't hear you!")

And yeah, definitely get legal advice.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:55 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANAL. I agree do not send them a letter - they can use that in the video. I think if they ambush you, just take out your phone and shoot video of them shooting you, while you sing "Happy Birthday" over and over. That would prevent them using any segment with you.

The "Happy Birthday" people are pretty vicious. The Beatles aren't so bad - everything they officially released and 5 times more of unreleased material is all over Youtube, even though Apple could get it all deleted in an instant without question.
posted by caclwmr4 at 3:33 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you get ambushed before you can contact a lawyer: Say nothing. Sign nothing. Make no eye contact with the boy in question. Do not acknowledge your name if they shout it. If they take physical action to restrain you from leaving, start running (so that they have to overtly restrain you to keep you around) and start shouting "help, police!" If there are any arrests, press charges for assault (again, if they overtly restrain you when you try to run.) After all, this is a very sleazy thing to be doing, and you're not a celebrity, so they can't hide behind the loopholes and laws that protect people shooting video of celebrities and public figures. Treat them as they are: strangers who are attempting to assault you.

However, your better bet is simply: contact a lawyer and discuss your options. Also, if you know any of the ex-girlfriends, contact them (anonymously) pointing them to the web site.
posted by davejay at 4:11 PM on May 16, 2012

Talk to the producer, and see if you can get a check for playing along?
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:37 PM on May 16, 2012

Actually, I don't think this applies in this instance. I worked in reality TV and docs for years and every time we had to film in public, if we didn't have either signed releases from people OR if we hadn't put up a sign indicating that we were filming and entering whatever establishment constituted a release (which is what you'd do if we were filming in a club or something), we couldn't use them.
This is because insurance companies are chicken-shit and your E&O policy will usually require releases. Its not supported by the case law. Many documentaries (think Michael Moore) could never be made if they had to obtain releases from the subjects.

Its possible that someone trying to raise funds on the internet for a doc might be scared off. Its also possible that the fact that the guy has a personal relationship with the subjects and is a sleezeball opens up some potential legal avenues. Its also possible that his plan is so disgusting that he can never find anyone to help him film it. I have no doubt that you could find a lawyer that can imagine a viable claim, but you have to weigh the costs of pursing it (and still potentially losing) against the potential downsides of having your response air on the documentary and making you look even worse. A good attorney will help you with that calculation.
posted by Lame_username at 4:53 PM on May 16, 2012

Instead, have you considered simply stepping up & facing what it is you (may have) done to wrong him, or hurt him? As you said, *something* happened and it ended badly.

I'm guessing that in the choice between person we know nothing about and person who is making a documentary about how his exes done him wrong in order to get back at all of them, it's not likely true that the first person wronged the second.

I absolutely think you should speak to a lawyer, who can discuss your legal options when they know the details that you are (rightfully) not sharing here. And I agree with all the people who say you should figure out how to react calmly and walk away quickly to anything really weird happening. But your lawyer might have better ideas, or might agree this is the best idea.
posted by jeather at 5:00 PM on May 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I feel like almost all the other answers have read a different question than I did. Nowhere does it say that she wants to avoid being filmed or wants some kind of legal advice. As far as I can tell, the question is how to handle possibly being pranked.

When I read the question I thought it sounded like this was some kind of comedy thing. I mean, honestly, doesn't it sound like a terrible Adam Sandler film?

My advice is to have a good time with it. Try to be mentally prepared for whenever you might get pranked or whatever will happen. You probably want to look good natured about it, like you are having fun with them as well, without looking like a total idiot.

But more importantly, don't worry. I am assuming that your ex is nobody important, and honestly, who wants to watch a documentary about some schlub off the street? Do whatever you want, no one will watch it. Unless your ex was Bieber or something, in which case, good luck.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:12 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Memail me if you would like some more specific advice, but I would suggest having a lawyer send a letter after they film you (if they ever bother).

Here's the thing: filming a documentary requires a ton more work than just showing up and waiting for someone. Everywhere on the planet requires an expensive permit to film. Malls will shut them down. Public parks will shut them down. Even (especially?) just filming on a pubic sidewalk without a permit is illegal. If you live in LA or another major city these guys will get shut down left and right without a permit. In addition, they can't make a movie out of people silently walking past them, and they wont be able to afford it either. Those prank shows? They have big budgets and permits.

Basically I'd bet that this documentary will be working with people who agree to be part of the project.

If they do happen across you, here's the order of operation to be both as boring as possible and as expensive to them as possible:

1. Don't say shit to anybody. Don't hide your face. Keep walking. Don't look at the camera. Don't look at anybody on the crew.

2. Take out your phone and quietly call the police. Tell them a film crew is stalking you and threatening you. The cops are going to bust them for not having a permit and send them away, or at least waste a lot of their time. Time is money, if you slow them down with cops, maybe they will be late and miss the next person they were planning on bothering.

3. Don't sign shit. If you feel like you need the contact info, take the producers card.

4. Send a very expensive sounding letter informing them that if you appear or are memtioned in this project, you will sue them. This will scare off the slimeball who is hoping to make a profit off this movie.

Lastly, an independent film project like this one needs to be bought by a distributor in order to make any money and be seen by a large audience. If in the unlikely event that you get filmed at all AND you make the cut AND this movie isn't such a turd that nobody will buy it, you politely inform the distributor that you will cost them more money in court than they will make in profit from this movie and that they should just remove you from the cut and save themselves an assreaming.

Godspeed and fuck these assholes.
posted by stephennelson at 5:21 PM on May 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

Wear loud, contasting houndstooth, plaid or heavy tweed clothes - anything to produce as much moiré pattern on video as possible. Let off a personal alarm - the high pitched whistling kind you can't stop - if approached. Wear a t-shirt saying the production company involved is an official Olympic sponsor. Immediately start advertising your work-from-home opportunity to camera.

I'm joking a bit, but basically they do need usable footage and if it comes down to it, don't give them it. The alarm idea might actually work OK.

But this sounds truly an awful thing to have to go through and you should get a lawyer's view on it.
posted by cromagnon at 5:38 PM on May 16, 2012

Instead, have you considered simply stepping up & facing what it is you (may have) done to wrong him, or hurt him? As you said, *something* happened and it ended badly.

Why would OP need to do this? And OP has the right to a private life, may not want contact with the boyfriend for any number of reasons (self-preservation sounds fairly likely to be honest) and/or may work in a profession where s/he doesn't need the hassle or exposure of this kind of thing. And this is a very weird situation that doesn't sound like it's being done for the benefit of closure. I've sometimes thought of sending a message to one or two people I feel I treated badly in the past, but no way on earth would I want to be having that conversation with a film crew in tow at someone else's convenience for, presumably, the lulz.

Besides, this film has already been done.
posted by mippy at 6:32 AM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thank you, Mippy ! I was racking my brain trying to remember where I had heard of a film like this before. OP, if you do find the cameras on you, simply mention "A Complete History ...." I'm sure they won't use it.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:49 PM on May 17, 2012

i would keep in mind the mantra "don't sign anything" if/when you end up being ambushed. you're likely to be really flustered if it happens, and it will be hard to think clearly. focus on this basic idea if you're in the situation because though a lot of the other answers are great and would work if you could think clearly, you probably won't be able to think clearly. but, if you keep saying to yourself "don't sign anything, don't sign anything" while you get out of the situation you will have a high chance of it working.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:43 PM on May 17, 2012

Air horn?

Fall to the ground and pretend to be unconscious?
posted by reddot at 6:18 AM on May 20, 2012

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