The Publicist:

Publicists' lives get harder when actors gain too much 'kill' power

Publicists' lives get harder when actors gain too much 'kill' power

All actors want the right to kill.

Publicity photos, that is, not film critics. (Although there are a few who probably wouldn't mind taking a swing at the LA Times' Kevin Turan). Even neophyte thespians ask their agents to negotiate contractual rights to approve on-set photographs before the studio distributes them to the press. Sometimes they get it, but not always.

I'm working with a young actress right now who thinks she has kill rights, but it's not in her contract. With the studio's agreement, I'm giving her "courtesy" kills, allowing her to peruse the book of contact sheets and eliminate photos she truly dislikes. But only if it's a solo shot. "Becky" tried to kill several photos depicting her with the movie's top-billed star. That's a no-no.

When I explained the situation, she was taken aback. "But my agent...he said I had full approvals..." Sorry, dear. So let's be reasonable. (I suspect this agent received a terse e-mail shortly thereafter.)

Contractual stipulations can be complex, requiring higher math. A typical proviso may read something like this: "Said performer may kill 75% of shots in which he/she appears alone; 50% of shots in which he/she appears with second- and third-billed cast members; and 20% of shots in which he/she appears with top-billed cast member. Performer may kill 100% of any shots in which he/ she bears any resemblance to Courtney Love."

I generally let the cast kill any reasonable number of shots, regardless of percentages. It's just fair. Besides, who wants to deal with all that ciphering? Occasionally an actor kills a perfectly good shot - in which case I'll resubmit it later, usually getting approval. Sometimes it just depends on their mood.

Veteran actors often have their publicists or managers do their kills. Or waive the right altogether. I recently worked with one acclaimed French actor who took all of one minute to quickly scan about three of 30 contact sheets. "It appears this photographer has some ability," he said. "No need to show me any more."

Great. But sometimes an actor unhappy with some other aspect of the production takes it out on the photographer. Ran into this problem last year with an actress who used up half a grease pencil in her exuberance to squelch photos. A week later she asked if she could get a print of one of the very pictures she killed. When I pointed this out, she said, "Oh, the pictures are fine, I was just pissed at the director at the time."

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

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