The Publicist:

Keeping photogs from shooting stars is a delicate balancing act

Keeping photogs from shooting stars is a delicate balancing act

The film I'm currently on is terrific, but not the kind of movie where there are lots of exciting things to watch - like car chases, explosions, or bar fights.

(We did have some nudity last week, but it was a closed set. Attempting to disguise myself as the set electrician, I was collared when someone asked for a "stinger" and I could only respond, "Um, isn't that something you should ask the medic?")

So, to amuse myself, I occasionally throw a little danger into the mix. Some folks jump out of planes, drive their cars on empty, or vote for Arnold to get their risk fix. I invite photographers to the set when one of the actors has expressly forbidden that any photos be taken of himself - even if he's just having a chocolate nougat at the snack table. It's a little game I call "publicity roulette." Our players are a TV station, a local tabloid, and yours truly. These two outlets have persistently demanded access to the set, so I chose to throw them a bone to prevent them from stalking our cast outside their hotel.

I made the ground rules clear: Shoot all the pictures you like of the set and the crew, but absolutely no shots of the star, even if he's only 20 feet away. Gauntlet thrown. The shooters looked at me like boxers in the middle of the ring before a bout. My smug countenance was met with a look of grim determination. "There's two of us," they seemed to say with their eyes. "Do you really think you can take us both?"

It was a harrowing two hours. The photographers worked as a team, one trying to distract me while the other would nonchalantly begin to point his camera in a forbidden direction. Fortunately, I've seen enough National Geographic specials to be aware of this predator technique and, thus, I successfully foiled each attempt. Gently, but firmly. "Nice try, but you're going to have to do better than that. I've been at this awhile."

The trick is to control aggressive photogs without insulting them. Provide enough access to placate, while dangling the possibility of better access down the road. Sort of a good-behavior incentive. Oh, and never take your eyes off them on the set.

I wasn't sure of victory until checking the paper and TV news the next day. No smuggled shots of the star. Round one to the thrill-seeking publicist. But this is a 10-week shoot. Chances are we'll joust again.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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