What’s in a name

Qamar Mohammed Malik, a Pakistan-born engineer, submitted his CV to the Amec Group construction company, but was told that the company had no suitable vacancies. He then submitted a similar CV with inferior qualifications, but using a fake Welsh name, Rhyddir Aled Lloyd-Hilbert. This time he was told there was a job vacancy and was offered an interview.

Malik has now filed a lawsuit against the Amec Group, accusing the company of racism. The company defends itself, saying that, ""Mr Lloyd-Hilbert" was contacted for interview with regard to the quality inspector vacancy and not Mr Malik because the former indicated he was about to move to Wales whereas the latter had a Reading address."

Regardless of who's in the right, Malik's experiment represents a variation on what I'm calling the spurious submission hoax. (I made up this term for it, but if anyone can think of a better name, let me know.) Spurious submission hoaxes usually involve the submission of a disguised piece of work (typically the retyped text of a famous work) to a publisher, who inevitably rejects it. The most famous example of such a hoax was when Chuck Ross submitted the manuscript of Casablanca to over 200 movie agents, many of whom rejected it, saying the script needed work.

Business/Finance Literature/Language

Posted on Tue Nov 06, 2007


The Casablanca bit is pretty suspicious on the face of it. Surely 200 movie agents couldn't all fail to recognize the script for one of the most famous movies of all time.

Probably many of them never read the script at all, but surely some of them at least opened it.

Are you sure they weren't just pulling Ross's leg?

Or maybe he was hoaxing the public by claiming he had submitted the script to 200 agents. Are there even 200 agents representing screenwriters in the whole United States?
Posted by Big Gary  in  Marfa, Texas  on  Wed Nov 07, 2007  at  08:48 AM
I break down the numbers of the Casablanca hoax in the article I wrote about it that I linked to:

Ross said he sent it to 217 agencies. (Yeah, I imagine there are quite a few movie agents since it doesn't require any special training to call yourself a movie agent.)

90 returned it unread.
7 never responded.
18 submissions got lost in the mail.
33 recognized it as the script of Casablanca.
8 noticed a similarity, but didn't realize it was Casablanca.
38 claimed to have read it, but didn't recognize it, and rejected it.
3 wanted to represent it.
1 thought it should be turned into a novel.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Nov 07, 2007  at  09:25 AM
That's pretty awesome. A few months, myself and some friends made up a whole fake resume featuring things like Erotic Baker and Nihilist Lifecoach and submitted it to several job postings on Craigslist... almost no one got the joke, and we actually got offered several interviews.
Posted by Kat  on  Wed Nov 07, 2007  at  10:29 AM
One problem with the fake submission experiments is that the responses may be just as fake. If someone sent me the Casablanca script, I would be very tempted to reject it with a pithy comment.

I'm also suspicious of the claim that 38 read it "but didn't recognize it." How does anyone know? Remakes are a fact of life in Hollywood, wouldn't at least some of these agent assume that was what was being proposed?

(Moreover, many people have never seen Casablanca, and even if they once did, would not remember it well, if at all, save for the iconic scenes.)
Posted by Joe  on  Wed Nov 07, 2007  at  12:02 PM
Alex, when I add up those numbers, I get 198, not 217.
Anyway, of those 198 (or 217), apparently 115 never got it, never read it, or never responded for some other reason.
Of the 83 who claimed to have read it, 41 realized it was a plaigiarism (33+8) and 38 rejected it for other reasons (which may have included lack of originality).
4 of those who claimed to read it acted interested in the script.
So possibly only 4, and at most no more than 42, of the roughly 200 agents read the script and failed to realize they were being spoofed. And even those 4 may have been kidding or attempting a practical joke or scam (such as the vanity scam where you say, "Your script is great; give me money to develop it") of their own.

That's still interesting, but much less drmatic than saying that 200 agents failed to recognize "Casablanca" (which Alex didn't really say, but which some people might if they didn't read carefully).
Posted by Big Gary  in  Marfa, Texas  on  Wed Nov 07, 2007  at  12:11 PM
The fake resume is often used by government agencies or private organizations wanting to prove racism. Once the charge of racism is made, the company has to prove innocence and no one ever believes them anyway. The idea that a company would be more interested in a prospect where they wouoldn't have to pay moving costs seems logical. However, did the company speak with "Mr. Lloyd-Hilbert" or how did they determine he was going to move to Wales? Does Mr. Malik speak with an accent that would tip the company off as to his Pakiztani origins if they did speak with him? More information needs to be provided and I doubt we will ever get it since the lawsuit will never cover such useful information.

As far as the number of screen agents, look at a recent copy of "The Writer's Guide." This is a thick book which lists most agents for books, movies, etc. It's put out annually by Writer's Digest. I think there are at least 200 agents for screenplays listed, almost all with some background in the industry.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Thu Nov 08, 2007  at  11:41 AM
Gary, I was also wondering about why the numbers don't add up to 217. I'll have to look at Ross's article again and figure out how he accounts for the missing responses.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Nov 08, 2007  at  12:58 PM
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