Stuff I Made: Advice for TV Characters and A Short Film For You

Iain Glenn holding some kind of lute-thing.
“What rhymes with Khaleesi? Greasy? I like the way you try to make Peace-y? Let’s live together, I’ll sign that Lease-y?”

Ever since I saw the fake Skyler White from Breaking Bad letter to an advice columnist, I’ve been a wee bit jealous that no one has tried to troll me like that. So Indiewire and I are trying out a thing where we construct letters from television characters and then I answer them.

I know there are 10,000 fanfic lovers who read this site regularly, so consider this a call to you. Binge-watching Orange Is The New Black? Texting your friends with “Sestra!”/”Brother-sestra!” after every episode of Orphan Black? Wondering how the Lannisters are going to sort out their big pile of Family Stuff or how Sansa is going to handle her creepy Uncle Peter on Game of Thrones? (We’ll save the FITZ IS CREEPY AND NOT ACTUALLY GOOD AT ANYTHING stuff for the start of next season of Scandal if you don’t mind, but we will get to it). If you’ve got an idea for a letter related to a current (currently on, up-to-date with what is happening on the show) TV show? Send ’em with “for Indiewire” in the subject line and we may see more of these.

In other news, a while ago my friend and Wardrobe-producer Dimitri William Moore brought me a story by one of his friends about the thin illusion of privacy we have when online dating. Together with some friends, some talented former students on camera, lights, and sound, and two great Chicago actors, we adapted the story into a short film. We shot it in few hours one morning at Hamburger Mary’s (eat there!), and thanks to the kindness of their staff, the whole thing cost whatever you’d pay for a big assortment of bagels from the bagel place next store. Post-production moves slowly when everyone is working for free and doing awesome stuff like having adorable babies, but I’m pleased to say, that film is finally ready!



How long would YOU stay sitting at that table? Tell us in the comments.

79 thoughts on “Stuff I Made: Advice for TV Characters and A Short Film For You

  1. Yessss, I am looking forward to more advice for fictional characters! 😀 I’m not up to date on any shows, but I’m excited to read about people who are.

  2. OMG–Awesome. I personally would have been looking for the bail after the first instance of “I found it on the internet.” But, being nice, I would have been looking for a kind out. THAT, however, would have ended with the eBay bid. At that point, niceness be darned, I am out of there, changing every password, disabling an account I have, changing phone number, common email, work extension, work email, looking for a new apartment, changing banks, changing credit card numbers and how my name is displayed (2 initials and a last name only). The new apartment may be in Guam. 🙂

    1. That’s one of the things that we try to get at in the film – she’s STILL trying to be nice to him, make excuses, leave “nicely” because she doesn’t want to set off something even worse. See you in Guam!

  3. That was funny! I would have gotten up from the table the second he said he ordered for me. That said, I was raised to be very VERY private, so the idea of someone knowing what drink I like or even looking up online public info of me creeps me waaaaaay out.

    1. Also, never drink from a cup someone you don’t know hands you! You don’t know what the hell is in there.

      1. Yeah, that made me cringe. The ordered-for-you bit is uncomfortable enough. Actually drinking from the cup when she hadn’t seen the drink being made or brought out by staff… eugh….

      2. Also, when a guy is not having a drink or not drinking their own drink I immediately get suspicious even if I know for sure they haven’t doctored my drink. I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but that increases the sketch factor by a couple of orders of magnitude. . . Oh! This probably has something to do with it (although I feel this way not only about alcohol):

        (and no, a guy having/drinking a drink isn’t assurance that they’re not being sketchy as hell – there isn’t a green flag opposing this red flag)



    When that convo starts up, I am so there.

    1. I am glad I’m not the only one who feels that way about Fitz! YEESH. He is neither a good lover nor a good president. What is he supposed to be so great at? Looking mournful? Does he just have the best pheromones ever?! ANYWAY I am looking forward to a future Scandal discussion.

    2. I have only finished through the end of season 2 on Scandal, and I just don’t get the attraction. I mean, he’s cute and they obvs have chemistry (which sadly, can keep people hanging on in doomed relationships for far too long.) But holy crap! Olivia is so friggin awesome, why does she keep getting involved with him?!?! Get some therapy, drink some wine, swim a zillion laps in the pool (since that seemed to be her thing), but get past this Vader.

  5. Funny and scary at the same time.! I would have seen red flags at the necktie-smoothing before I even sat down but would probably have perched on the edge of the seat and opened with ‘sorry, work pressure, can’t stay long’ in an attempt to get out of it gracefully rather than turning on my heel and leaving. Socialization, you have a lot to answer for.

  6. Funny and scary at the same time! I would have seen red flags at the necktie-smoothing before I even sat down but would probably have perched on the edge of the seat and opened with ‘sorry, work pressure, can’t stay long’ in an attempt to get out of it gracefully rather than turning on my heel and leaving. Socialization, you have a lot to answer for.

  7. That’s a great short film! But wow, jeesus that is creepy as f*ck. I’m not sure I would have picked up on the coffee order but the myspace? From 2006? Fricken hell I’m out of there! This is why my FB is on lockdown and my blog is completely anonymous. Yikes.

    Also? I cannot wait to read letters from TV characters. 😀

    Orphan Black – Allison aka “Pill Popping is a legit coping mechanism, right?” – I’m fresh out of rehab and my husband is drunk? In front of the kids? My hyper-critical mother is getting suspicious about why our kids are suddenly spending so much time at hers. How do I deflect her concern trolling about my “spa holiday” and my marriage? Oh and I accidentally but not really committed manslaughter and I’m wracked with guilt. Halp!

    1. Any Orphan Black character could really do with some Captain Awkward advice, but Allison is definitely top of the list. What about Cosima? “I’m still not sure if I can trust my girlfriend because she starting dating me to gather information for the shady organization that created me and she lies to me, like, all the time, and I’m not even sure if she actually likes girls at all. Also, how can I get my boss to stop withholding life-saving medication to keep me in line?

      1. Ahhh, poor Cosima. I think even CA would have a bit of trouble dealing with all her issues. It would have to be a multi-post special. Dealing with the manipulative, evil boss? Tricky.

  8. That short film was horrifying (and sooooo good). And yeah, at the ordering for me, I would have said point blank “Well THAT was presumptuous of you.” But I am a Bitch who doesn’t care 😀 😀 😀 .

    1. Very good point. I can remember how my Mum and my Aunt like their coffee, and how my partner likes their tea and that’s it. Work mates? Friends? Nope. Anyone you haven’t met before? Ahaha no, why would you even?

      1. Also, it’s not as if I order the same beverage every single time I go out to eat, even at the same restaurant! Even if I have a usual, who says I want it on a given day? Which is why even best friends and family, you know, ask with their words what I actually want. Someone preemptively ordering for me would put my back way up, let alone someone I’d never met before.

        1. Indeed. If I wanted tea, I’m very specific about how I like it, but I don’t drink it much of the time. Sometimes I want an iced fruit crush, or a carton of freshly pressed apple juice, or a hot chocolate. That thing what with being a person with individual prefences and changable desires! Who is allowed to like and want more than one socially prescribed thing!

  9. Can someone post a direct link to just the video? I’d like to email it to several people I know.

    1. Sure, also, for future reference if you click the word Vimeo at the bottom of the embed window it takes you to the direct link.

      Here it is:

  10. Heh, I kind of actually did the advice column fanfic thing–Babylon 5 is a dead fandom, but I wrote a Babylon 5/Dear Sugar story for Yuletide a couple years ago. (Note: I am not Cheryl Strayed. I have nowhere near as much empathy, or, uh, writing.)

  11. Cap’t, I love this!

    When he said he had ordered from me, it would have set off my warning bells, but if he got the order right, I would have let it slide (my coffee order isn’t hard to guess). If it wasn’t what I had wanted, I’d say that I was trying to avoid a certain ingredient and order my own.

    But friending my Facebook friends? KLAXONS.

  12. Initially, I was thinking this was going to be about how much of our stuff can be relatively-easily found online, not about someone obsessively researching every single thing Fiona has been doing since 2006. So much that was so so creepy.

  13. Not a derail I hope, but this struck home for me. I have cut off the dating sites for now. I talked to a guy on the phone a couple times from OKC last month and he was a little pushy boundary wise so… Due to last time I met someone who was creepy I insisted on getting his full name and city so I could check on him. At a glance his social media looked fine. I looked him up on the state court website after the second phone call because feelings. He has a record of arrest for assault of two different women and stalking one. I had to cross reference his social media with the birth date to confirm it was him because they only give month/day on the court site. It made ME feel like a stalker but I dodged a bullet there. It did leave me feeling like even on line I’m attracting abusive assholes, or worse am attracted to them somehow, even digitally.

    1. As much as this feels like it’s about you attracting a certain kind of person, it’s at least as much as you having great instincts and believing in them to keep yourself safe.

      1. I feel like there is a not statistically insignificant percentage of men in the world for whom this is a legit thing (like, 6% is not insignificant), and also like a lot of abusive men are initially charming, such that every straight woman is attracted to at least one or two in her life.

        1. Also: Especially men like him will take avenues for dating where they can find targets more easily. So the percentage of assholes on dating websites, where they can stay anonymous, may even be higher than when you meet them any other way. This all is to say: Datdamwuf, I don’t think this is all (or at all?) on your insticts and as the Captain says, your insticts also got you out of there real fast. They are working fine.

          [Sorry for every-changing mail adresses. Should stay the same now.]

      2. Thanks, I did pat myself on the back for trusting something was off and checking. Thanks Dubz & Erin for the reassurances.

    2. Totally understandable re: the court website. I have a similar, but less frightening story!

      I once went out on a date with a guy who, it transpired, moved every six months or so because he “enjoyed getting to know different neighborhoods.” He was also really pushy about asking me where I lived, did I have any plans to move, was I going to buy a house anytime soon, etc. It seemed like every building we passed, he mentioned either that he’d lived there for a while or that they had turned him down as a renter. We talked about other things, but he was pushy and glurgily romantic throughout, and eventually I manufactured an afternoon visit with a friend to get the hell away from him.

      Once I’d gotten away, I looked him up on the court website and holy shit, there were five cases where he was being sued by debtors, and in two of the cases, the plaintiffs hadn’t managed to get him served with summons. It became obvious why he moved so often, and what he was really looking for in a relationship.

      I don’t run a check like that on everyone I go out with, but I have no shame about examining that red flag. it was nice to have an explanation for his particular brand of pushy jerkitude.

  14. I was okay right up until … whatever he said right before he mentioned the yeast infection. Like, not okay, but my tipping point was basically the same as hers. The worst of it is that I still feel like he’s probably not a horrible person? Only that nobody’s taught him social graces. (Which nobody owes him, obviously.) Augh!

    …not that any of this seems like it would lead into A+ film, did like very much, shared with partner who watched in equally fascinated and bemused horror as the trainwreck unfolded. And yet it does!

    On the topic of fictional characters seeking advice: YES. YES PLEASE. I’ve considered writing these letters in before but, well, it never seemed appropriate to burden you with pretend problems when you do so much good work for real people with real issues. So I’m totally looking forward to seeing what comes of opening wide those floodgates 🙂

    1. Yeah, I agree – I think he’s taking his cues the general idea that “romance” is depicted as someone doing something extra special for their love interest based on them as an individual and showing that “no one knows them like they do.” What he’s neglected to realise is that the protagonist in romantic stories has usually gained this personal information from INTERACTIONS with the love interest, using information that they have CHOSEN to disclose to the individual in question.

      What I also like about this video (and there are many things I like about it) is that it demonstrates how uneven people’s expectations about online dating can be. She isn’t new to online dating (casually mentioning a recent date with another man), probably just wanting a brief meeting and a chat. He’s dressed up to the nines, enthusiastically waving at her before she’s even through the door, smoothing his necktie nervously. He’s emotionally invested in the relationship before they’ve even interacted – quite a cautionary tale for those new to the phenomenon even without the horrible creepy stuff.

      I would’ve stayed way too long if I’m honest, probably with a great deal of internal monologuing to get me through “Oh my God, let this be over soon, please please, no, stop talking now… Mental note… delete MySpace profile, deactivate eBay account, change passwords to EVERYTHING… oh, you’re still going… Wait, what? Yeast infection?! I’m taking a fake phone call NOW.”

      1. I didn’t even catch his emotional investment – thanks for pointing that out. I’d just read it as nervousness but you’re right.

  15. Aww, he seemed so nervous and cute and vaguely Colin Firthy and then he had to be a total creep. The ending is hilarious!

    1. We deliberately kept his performance endearing and enthusiastic so the audience would have the same “But he seems so sweet…wait, he said what?” reaction as the character.

      1. I really didn’t think he was sweet, but again that’s me and people ordering for me. On the other hand, if I could make it past that, I’d have thought harmless up to the yeast infection and then. YIKES!

        Because my passwords aren’t my birthday, and to figure them out? Hmmm not so easy.

  16. I do think he’s a horrible person. He could only know about her yeast infection because he used her password. That’s not “no social graces” that’s criminal behaviour. People write things on facebook and twitter because they want others to know about them, and it may be hard for a socially awkward person to see that it’s inappropriate to research someone’s whole life story, but that yeast infection thing crossed a line. (As did the befriending all her friends thing, but that’s a line that might be a bit harder to see)

    1. We deliberately kept the actor’s affect endearing and enthusiastic to get at that “but he’s just a clueless….OH WAIT” reaction. Like, you have to kind of root for it to work out between them at the very beginning and want to give him the benefit of the doubt and then slowly realize what he is actually saying. Because that whole “he is seriously creeping me out!” “Nawwwwww, he’s just nice and likes you too much and is too enthusiastic!” argument is still happening and I want to kill it with fire.

      1. Aw, man, now I feel like a curmudgeon. I might keep talking with him past the “I ordered for you” moment, but that would be enough to make sure I never, ever went out with him or interacted with him again. For me someone trying to control what I was consuming would be enough to make me savagely angry. I LOVE EATING AND I WANT ABSOLUTE CONTROL OVER EVERYTHING THAT GOES INTO MY MOUTH, DAMMIT.

    2. I may not have worded my reply correctly – what I intended to get across was that despite being appalled at his shitty behavior and seeing all the red flags in the world, there’s still a part of me that wants to do the “oh but he’s probably really nice and doesn’t realize he’s being weird!” which just goes to show how deeply that stuff’s ingrained. Because, yeah, there’s that line, and there he went, sailing straight over it in complete bliss. Gross.

  17. Timing couldn’t be better! For once, I’m actually fannish about a show while it’s current. And it’s not even a cartoon.

  18. I really liked the film, the ending cracked me up, especially since I thought it was going to go all psycho when he blocked her from leaving. I was waiting for the light and fluffy music to change :).

  19. Oh. My. GOD.

    I’d’ve been deeply freaked out pretty quickly, but I probably would have stayed anyway up through the revelation of password hacking. At which point: YIKES!

    I feel like there’s probably a very good letter to be written based on The Blacklist, but I’m not quite sure who it would be from.

  20. I love the idea of letters from fictional characters. Would it be workable to make sure they are carefully marked for spoilers at the top? I know a lot of people watch current shows but may be an episode or two behind, or may wait until the entire season comes out to watch all at once.

    1. I think the editor there wants stuff to be very current, so they’re always going to have spoilers, but I think we could mark them as well.

  21. I’d been thinking of writing you a book-character letter, so it wouldn’t be…remotely current. 😉

  22. I love the fictional problem page idea. We had to write a problem page with letters from/to characters in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_ when I was at school. Most of mine were pretty boring (“I fancy X” s/he doesn’t fancy me”) and then I got completely carried away writing one from Peter Quince after Bottom had been turned into an ass which still makes me laugh twenty years later.

  23. Hilarious! and enjoying the comments because I can be fairly clueless about contemporary socialising and slo-o-w on the uptake… but even I sat up at every fresh revelation of privacy violation.

  24. Ordering my drink before I get there? Yeah, no. It’s really hard to say what you’d do – this is so far out that it would take a while to realize that – what – he’s actually saying that stuff? And it’s hard to override the normal nice-setting with someone who doesn’t LOOK aggressive or pushy. (Which this space is, right – good training to overcome niceness)

    But from watching – the ordering in advance plus the fact that he’d been digging back 8 years of Internet stuff. And admitting it! Like it’s normal! That would be someone with no understanding of privacy and boundaries. Skin-crawlingly terrifying

  25. That was a great film, it really does a brilliant job of slowing ramping up the tension…and I would definitely have stuck it out too..too well socialised to be ‘nice’

  26. Is no one else as amused by Khaleesi/Lease-y as I am? Come on, guys, that was hilarious.

  27. Oh my!! I’ve been wanting the Captain to offer advice for fictional characters for ages–keep meaning to email to suggest it. Yay! First off, this is going to be SO fun and second off I think sometimes fictional relationships give folks ideas for how REAL relationships can/should work that are actually quite unhealthy if done in real life. (Have huge flirtatious sexual tension with a coworker? Ask him/her out!! Don’t just share the “one time” kiss or the “I love you” after she’s been shot and assume you’ll get together after FIVE seasons!) (That rude, brooding, handsome man who thinks he’s too good for you?? In real life, he’s probably just rude and annoying!)

    1. Yes – do you also find that the more “use your words” kind of becomes your usual go-to way for managing your life, the harder to watch a lot of pop culture gets? There’s lots of things I can hardly watch because the dramatic tension depends on really bad communication and I just find myself getting exasperated with all the characters.

      1. There’s lots of things I can hardly watch because the dramatic tension depends on really bad communication and I just find myself getting exasperated with all the characters.

        All the time.

  28. Best shot in the video was when she tried to leave and he stood up and his head blocked the exit sign from view. Very nice cinematography!

  29. Brilliant movie. I’d have left at “took the liberty of ordering.” I don’t like people ordering for me….

  30. I haven’t seen this in the comments so far, so here goes. I’d love to see some advice columns for the characters on The Newsroom. Not so much the Will/Mackenzie dynamic–more along the lines of the 2nd tier characters. I would especially like to see some advice columns for Maggie and Lisa (Allison Pill & her roommate). Sloan (Olivia Munn) also seems to need a ton of advice. The Jim/Hallie/Maggie situation in season 2 seems like the characters need some help (I’m thinking letter from Hallie about how she and Jim seem to be doing well. She’s not sure what to do with his relationship with Maggie which seems to be friends with chemistry. Situation is also complicated by the fact that Maggie is going through BIG EMOTIONAL FALLOUT and clearly needs help from *someone* but Hallie isn’t very close to the situation.) Seriously, Captain. These people need you. 🙂

      1. I love that Amy Schumer clip, especially Josh Charles’s perfect Sorkin speechifying. On a related note, I would love to read some advice for The Good Wife characters! Your advice on workplace drama is always solid.

  31. The Newsroom would be SO great if they just LEFT OUT all the damn relationship drama. gah. my whole newsroom-watching friends group gets SO frustrated about it. It’s like this terribly wrong note in an otherwise great song.
    well, great except for the usual Sorkin-portraying-women issues which are SO rampant in the show. But it’s still such fun if you just wince and get past those moments … (like, Mac is an award-winning journalist who’s dealt with knife fights in Kabul but can’t send an email? and stomps on her phone when the email-sending goes awry? …???????). But it has it’s good moments, and that’s what keeps us coming back. Right?

  32. Oh man, my husband and I watched the video and like 2 minutes in my husband was sitting straight up with a horrified look going “OMG THAT’S SO CREEPY AUGH” and it made me laugh even harder. My husband is normally a super unflappable person but THIS VIDEO, MAN. Captain, you and your team did a fabulous job. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    Like other commenters have said, there’s no way I would have touched that drink. Out on a date with a strange guy and you didn’t see the staff actually make your drink? Nooooooooope.

  33. Lovely, creepy little video! I try to be a ‘nice girl’ (50 years after my mama trained me, still), but “I took the liberty of ordering for you” would have received a raised eyebrow, a slow take, and then, “Really? Why EVER would you think you would know what I feel like drinking?” When he mentioned MySpace I would have replied “Haven’t been there since 2007” and if he pressed the point I would have suggested that imagining I’m still the same as I was 8 years ago would be, well, pretty foolish.

    Depending on how he handled that much pushback, maybe I would be willing to interpret the stuff so far as ‘too nervous, too eager, and online dating is hard’ (which, after all, is the experience I’m having with it) … but looking me up on e-bay? before even a first coffee date? Nope. I would have walked right then … which would be unfortunate, because I wouldn’t have discovered that he asked my Friends List to ‘friend’ him. Which I’m about to go ask them immediately to undo.

    If you folks make a sequel … an actual coffeedate recently, with a guy who was in fact engaging, intelligent, and easy to like, ended with an invitation to spend the evening with him at his half-renovated farmhouse on his 30-plus acres outside a tiny rural town where I know nobody. I said something like ‘not until we know each other better’ and he was offended. Nope.

  34. Terrific video… The lady actor had a fascinating array of expressions that I was constantly trying to work out if she was offended and looking for a polite way out, or about to offer her own confession of internet stalking.

    1. Thank you! She came to a directing class I was teaching as part of a casting call I did on Craigslist, and was a keeper for sure!

  35. On advice for fictional characters: I saw Much Ado About Nothing and at the end thought “well, ok, but what is the relationship between Claudio and Hero going to be like going forward?”

    I read the play in high school and saw the Branagh movie around then, but that didn’t occur to me until last week.

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