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The New Grift

I’ve reached a new phase of unemployability that has complicated life for me a bit, in the most annoying way possible. The past several times I’ve had job interviews (phone or in-person), I’ve been told something like this: “You are grossly overqualified for this job, but I’ll tell you why we called you…[insert list of reasons why my resume ‘popped’]” Maybe this is some new human resources flattery technique. “On the chance we don’t hire you, we want you to know that you’re overqualified, even though you’re…not.” I guess I could rule that out because most of these jobs are through friends, and I hear back from them that I didn’t get the job because the department manager thinks I’d get bored, or they don’t think I’d fit in with the other workers because of my gigantic, college-educated brain. I often shoot back with things like, “I am not easily bored” or “My college was pretty crappy,” but it never does any good.

I seem to find two sets of jobs: those I’m overqualified for, and those I’m hilarious unqualified for. I can’t seem to find a happy medium of a job I’m exactly qualified for, at least according to my experience level. Every job I’m unqualified for on paper, I think I can do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t apply. But I do apply, shamelessly manipulating my resume into something that’s about as close to fiction as you can get while still being honest. I have, on occasion, been called in to interview for the “unqualified” jobs, so I’ve had it both ways: “You’re overqualified for this job, so we’ll see.” Or “Wow, how did you even get a call from HR?” Those are rough.

So what are my options? I could go back to retail work, where nobody gives a shit if you’re overqualified because if you were any good at anything, you wouldn’t be applying to those shit jobs. However, I’m holding out for a hero until the end of the night. Nothing serious—I want something that’s just a general office thing, but that’s what I’m overqualified for. So shit, why not apply for a bunch of editor positions at publishing companies? I wouldn’t mind something bottom-rung, but I never see those jobs advertised, even on the companies’ websites. Am I looking in the wrong places? No idea, but fuck, if I can sham my way into a job where all I do is, for instance, look at submissions and say “yea” or “nay”? A job where all I do is sit around reading is pretty ideal.

But my resume, treading in dishonest waters as it is, couldn’t withstand being spread any thinner. It’s time to pull out the big guns, the complete and utter lies that I’m embarrassingly good at because, well, I have that giant overqualified brain and I like to pretend I’m a writer, so I sit around working out every single stupid detail, every single problem that could lead to me being caught, and try to have all the answers. Now, obviously, I don’t want to blow my wad by giving them all the answers—at least, not right away. But I need to know the answers. It’s how grifting works.

Speaking of elaborate cons: last year, I came up with an idea based on something a colleague told me in Los Angeles. In talking about how roughly 90% of movies and television are adapted from something else, he suggested I go trolling used bookstores for obscure little novels, track down the author or his agent and buy the rights for a song, then turn around at sell the screenplay version at a 10,000% profit (that was his estimation).

“But I have ideas,” I scoffed. “I don’t need to adapt someone else’s.”

“It’s not about using someone else’s idea,” he said. “It’s about having a prop—something they can touch and look it. They’re never going to read it. You can take one of your screenplays, find a random story that has a few vague similarities, buy the rights, and call it an adaptation. I guarantee you they won’t glance at more than a page or two, and by the time they finally read your screenplay—six months later—they won’t remember anything except the prop.”

So I went one better and wrote a novel, based on one of my screenplays. And no, this is not the novelizations of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or Back to the Future they used to sell through the Troll Book Club—this was an actual effort to rewrite the screen story as a novel, filling it out with details, additional subplots, altering the storyline and characterizations in the script to make everything a little bleaker.

I didn’t think too much of it; despite the valiant effort, I accepted that this was hackery at its worst, so I put this whole plan in motion. I found a free self-publishing service that did not require use of their logo or advertising in any way. “Free” is fun, but for an additional one-time fee they’ll list you at a bunch of e-tailers, again without their logo—it’d have my own fake publisher’s name. I designed a complete, fraudulent website asserting the reality of the fictitious company, complete with a roster of authors and an arsenal of novels.

Using the “they won’t glance at more than a few pages” theory, I’d have a few copies printed up, maybe even leave them with producers I pitched to, maybe they’d be interested enough to google—boom, there’s the company website. Boom, there’s the listing—real publisher, real novel. The only trouble would come if they went a little bit past the surface and started, for instance, checking out ISBNs or just typing titles or authors into the Amazon search engine.

Then two things happened that made me rethink the strategy: (1) I started to get nervous that, with potential deals for tens of thousands of dollars, it seemed likely they would look past the surface, and I’d be fucked. (2) The feedback for the novel started coming in, and I got the (possibly misguided) idea that, with a rewrite, I could get it published legitimately. But that is a process that takes almost as much time and hand-wringing as selling a screenplay. So I’m going for it…

In the interim I need…something to do that pays money. I have a publishing company domain, a complete site design and nearly-complete content. All I need is a use for it. Like, say, asserting the existence of a 100% fake company that I can put down on a resume, claiming I’ve been working there as an editor for three years (which is usually the amount of experience they want), telling my mostly unscrupulous and far-too-supportive references to back this up, manufacturing samples of past work, roping a friend into helping create the “false front” with phone and e-mail fraud (not a felony!).

Is there any possible way this could work? It’s doubtful, but I’m at the end of my rope and I really want a job that is only partly demeaning. So fuck it—why not go balls to the wall for a few months, and if it goes horribly awry I’ll just go back to my original methods?

Besides, it’s not like I can go to prison for defrauding businesses in order to get a job. Right?


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