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I hope your week is going okay.
I went to visit my nieces on the weekend, and was reminded how smart and cool young people are.
This one on Tiktok is pretty great, too — devising a classification model for conspiracy theories.
She’s pretty on the money.
Maybe there is hope.
Speaking of conspiracy theories, let’s talk about some misinformation and disinformation.
It’s time for more Anna Wilding, the New Zealander who’s been getting herself on the news for decades.
Please read The Pretender: Part I if you haven’t already, as this story expands on that.
In Part II, I decided to dig into more of her claims with my friend & colleague Dylan Reeve.
Buckle in for some bullshit.
Dylan and I have been talking about Wilding for years. And we’ve discussed writing about her for years.
But we held off, because… what was the point? She seems upset, let’s not upset her more.
But her actions have consequences for other people (we’ll get to that) — and tbh I’m kinda sick of certain media just lazily parroting what she says.
So, we wanted to clear some of her claims — starting with her film we first heard about in 2016: Buddha Wild: The Monk in a Hut.
In a news report, Anna she lost “tens of thousands of dollars” to online piracy.
There is no evidence that Buddha Wild: The Monk in a Hut was ever pirated.
And if DVD copies were, uh, copied, then it certainly wasn’t widespread.
To this day, I still can’t find it on Pirate Bay.
This is a perfect example of Anna in action — as Dylan mused: “Generally, I don’t think Anna Wilding is a liar, as such. In most cases, as far as I’ve been able to determine, her claims are based in truth but presented in a way that implies, perhaps, more significance that might be warranted.”
He’s being very kind.
There are a host of examples of Wilding exaggerating.
One of Anna’s online resumes lists The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy among her credits, citing her role as “Lead”
The TV movie, produced in 1989 for Australia’s Channel 7 and others, shows Anna under “Rest of cast” on IMDB, which indicates she wasn’t credited.
Wilding also claims she was nominated for New Zealander of the year.
Poking into this, you find the nominations were gathered by people writing in to the New Zealand Herald.
Anyone could do this, and Wilding is listed among the nominees received.
With over 1,500 votes counted for the “Woman of the Year”, she received three votes.
At some point, Wilding appears to have discovered that by including a famous name in a claim, there’s more of a chance it will get media coverage.
If you’re not familiar with Susan Boyle, she was the winner of the third season of Britain’s Got Talent.
Gripped a nation.
Stole our hearts.
Caught the attention of Anna Wilding.
This headline appeared in the Mirror on April 19, 2009:
The newspaper wrote:
“Now Carpe Diem Films are sending the beige-loving singer the script for Counterswirl, about a lonely Aussie woman who dreams of launching an international wine festival.”
Carpe Diem Films, the outfit behind Buddha Wild: Monk in a Hut, is Anna Wilding.
A little over a month after that piece was published, Wilding posted an angry YouTube video, claiming that story was a vicious leak.
What makes this sort of unusual is that the Mirror “leak” included quote from Wilding herself:
Producer Anna said: “I’d be honoured if she'd consider the role — it’s perfect for her.
“Her real-life story about a woman struggling for success is the same as the story behind the lead character in my film.”
2009 was a year of wild celebrity stories from Wilding.
Before Niki Caro was experiencing stress with Mulan, she was experiencing stress with Anna Wilding.
To coincide with a visit to New Zealand by the Dalai Lama, Niki Caro’s film Vintner’s Luck was due be screened with a panel discussion.
It seems that Anna Wilding took this as a slight against Buddha Wild: The Monk in a Hut, and fought back publicly by issuing a press release basically calling Caro a liar and claiming that if any film were to be screened, it should be hers.
After all, there cannot be too much Monk in a Hut.
Wilding’s press release drew some criticism from the New Zealand film community:
“The second release seems more concerned with promoting the holier than thou credentials of Buddha Wild: Monk in a Hut, directed and produced by Anna Wilding, aka Carpe Diem Films aka the writer of the release.”
Of course in response to that criticism of her press release, Anna Wilding issued another press release.
This shit just goes on and on.
This doesn’t appear to have hindered Caro’s career. Mulan is currently on Disney Plus for $30 a pop.
One of the things that bothers me about this whole situation is that media outlets are giving her a platform.
They are complicit in the disinformation Wilding is spreading. They are enabling her to do what she does.
Each new appearance in the press is just added to her resume, to legitimise her next appearance.
On top of that, there is already a growing distrust of news media, and if they’re not doing basic vetting of talent, then what hope do we have?
They are not doing their job: basic fact checking.
You can see how out of hand it gets in this TV appearance:
But sometimes, the press pushes back.
“Anna Wilding laid a complaint against The Press because the Editor, Paul Thompson, would not interview her or publish her media releases sent to him in February and March this year. The Press Council did not uphold her complaint.
Anna Wilding had returned to Christchurch from Los Angeles where she is based. She expected The Press to publish her photos and details of her professional career as a local interest story.”
In 2004 Anna filed a complaint with the New Zealand Press Council against The Press, because they chose not to interview her:
The Secretary of the Press Council advised her that “editors were responsible for deciding the content of their publications and that such a complaint was unlikely to succeed.”
Wilding chose to pursue her complaint anyway, “on the basis that other media overseas had published a portion of her press release, proving that it was newsworthy.”
In this case, things did not go Wilding’s way.
What I still marvel at — in amongst all the stories, disinformation and outright lies — is that she did get White House accreditation.
Here she is asking a question at the White House daily briefing on July 26, 2016.
She waited until the very end to ask a somewhat rambling question:
ANNA WILDING: “There is talk that there’s a lot of money from Russia and the nation state in Donald Trump’s businesses, and that is possibly a motivation. Wouldn’t that make him very vulnerable as a presidential nominee, more vulnerable than usual - to possibly be controlled or blackmailed by a nation state?”
MR. SCHULTZ: “That’s not going to be an assessment I can offer from here, but you might want to check with the campaigns.”
What. The. Fuck.
It sells for $169, or $499 for the deluxe version with a “luxurious clear lucite and vegan leather cover.”
And then the same pattern emerges.
Wilding lashes out, to get more attention — this time threatening to sue Penguin Random House.
Not content with this move, she then lashed out at the paper covering her story. As was the case with the Susan Boyle incident, she claimed that story didn’t come from her:
“Wasn’t me who contacted the newspaper” she said in a LinkedIn post.
It never ends.
As well as duping news media, the other problem here is the real cost she is causing real people.
In Part I of this tale, I raised the point I’d heard from Wilding’s lawyer back in 2016.
On one hand, it was a baseless threat.
On the other hand, it means if I want to respond and clear things up, I have to engage a lawyer myself, which costs money.
And Wilding does have plenty of cash.
As usual, the media didn’t do much fact checking and just ran with Wilding’s narrative (often about herself):
“Hollywood-based actor, producer and film consultant Anna Wilding, who is visiting family in Christchurch, said New Zealanders hired to supply and ride horses in the epic were being treated like “slave labour.” The riders, who received daily rates of $200 and meals, would be paid at least $500 plus allowances if the film were being made in America.”
But sometimes her targets end up out of pocket, just due to the legal wrangling involved in clearing up her bullshit.
I spoke to a New Zealand business who has dealt with Wilding’s legal threats over a number of years. I’ve seen the documentation.
They wish to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.
“Fortunately, we have our own in-house legal counsel, so a lot of the legal back and forth is dealt with by them, but, on occasion, we need to engage with legal firms, especially when the claims she is making are reaching or are based in a foreign jurisdiction, so that costs us.”
I asked how much Wilding’s cost them:
“We would have paid $10,000 minimum all up to have this dealt with.”
Can’t wait till she reads this (please don’t tag her in it, I’m serious).
That’s all for Part II. There might be more. If you have your own Wilding story, you can always get me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or sound off in the comments below.
PS: Here is Part III.
Thanks for reading this Webworm. Dylan Reeve did the heavy lifting on this one. So, er, if you’re reading this, Wilding — you best go after him. I’m innocent!
On a serious note, thankyou for being a subscriber. Occasionally I do need to pay a lawyer to look at things that get me into trouble on Webworm, and you allow me to do that. So thanks.
I leave you with this photo of Louis Theroux wearing a tee shirt with my face on it. I watched a lot of Louis’ stuff (Weird Weekends is an all time great) as I worked towards a career in journalism and documentary, so of course he’s had a big influence on my work. So this is kinda cool.
(I don’t make these shirts, someone is selling them on Redbubble or Etsy or something, all power to them, it has nothing to do with me!)
Until next time, stay safe x