The Publicist

Reviews are mixed over movie websites' increasing ubiquity

Reviews are mixed over movie websites' increasing ubiquity

Can't wait for that big summer film to come out?

Don't have to. You can watch it being made on the internet. Official and unofficial movie websites have become omnipresent, revealing everything from behind-the-scenes footage to detailed descriptions of what the star had for lunch. That day. Filmmakers often cooperate with these sites by doing interviews, keeping video web dairies, and posting casting or production scoops before the trades announce them.

I remember logging a weekly text-only web diary for a Jackie Chan movie a few years ago, but that's considered pass? today. Now it's all about exclusive video, daily chats, and "insider" blogs. One of the most popular sites is dedicated to King Kong, the upcoming feature being directed by Peter Jackson. Launched by Jackson's fans, not the studio, it contains enough on-set happenings that the studio head could rely on it to stay abreast. Jackson coddles fans like Faye Wray in Kong's palm, conducting his own cast and crew interviews and detailing the minutiae of this guaranteed blockbuster.

Not all PR execs are thrilled, however. They feel these sites allow too much information to be disseminated without proper filters. They also preach to the choir.

Says a veteran publicist of a major studio that's frequently been in the news lately: "Web geeks will show up on the first day anyway. Why expend so much effort satisfying their insatiable appetite for news? I'd rather focus on attracting a secondary audience that is aware of the film, but may need some motivation to show up opening weekend."

(Studio marketing arms, as discussed in this column previously, are held responsible for opening-weekend box-office grosses, so it's an obsession with them.)

Some others simply object to giving away tricks and storylines before the public sees the movie.

I'm working with an Oscar-nominated actor right now who won't allow, politely, behind-the-scenes EPK (electronic press kit) coverage on set, which is used both as a theatrical release promotion and, later on, an added feature on DVD releases.

"It ruins the magic of moviemaking," he told me. "How can an audience lose itself in the story when it has already watched a scene being rehearsed and shot during production? Besides, a lot of it just looks silly."

It's my job to help gather such behind-the-scenes material, but I must admit he has a point. I'm surprised more actors don't share his opinion. And relieved.

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

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