THE PUBLICIST: DVDs have placed behind-the-scenes crews front and center

I've mentioned before how irresistible it is for those working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry to occasionally take a bow in the spotlight themselves. Publicists included. Hence, the Premiere DVD awards in LA last week. I was going to attend, but at the last minute, something came up - namely, lunch. I couldn't bear the thought of having to sit through another one of those self-congratulatory fests.

I've mentioned before how irresistible it is for those working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry to occasionally take a bow in the spotlight themselves. Publicists included. Hence, the Premiere DVD awards in LA last week. I was going to attend, but at the last minute, something came up - namely, lunch. I couldn't bear the thought of having to sit through another one of those self-congratulatory fests.

Set publicists, like yours truly, are integrally involved in coordinating and obtaining interviews and behind-the-scenes (BTS) footage seen on the DVD. Primarily, this effort consists of sitting around on set with the hopeful interviewer, eating lots of snacks, and answering the repeated question of, "So, when do you think we'll get our interview with Bruce Willis?" (The answer varies, depending on the publicist's mood, from "right after this take" to "when Hollywood freezes over.") Until the digital age, this BTS material was used strictly for the electronic press kit (EPK), which went only to media outlets, so no one cared much. Clips from the EPK would appear, for example, on your local news channel or perhaps a show like Access Hollywood. Unless it was a big-budget blockbuster, an EPK's modus operandi was to grab a few days of b-roll on set, throw in a few interviews, and call it a day. It all changed with the advent of the DVD. Now BTS footage and cast and filmmaker interviews go directly to the consumers. It's not b-to-b anymore. Now, it's Mr. and Mrs. Home Entertainment watching that Willis interview (if Hollywood didn't freeze over) from their sofa. Now that's significant. It has prompted the studios to invest more money and time on additional and better BTS during production. These nuggets are combined with clips from the movie, outtakes, deleted scenes, and commentary to form the value-added "Special Features" that drive rentals and sales of movie titles, which generate the biggest share of a movie's total revenue. With that kind of coin at stake, it's not unusual for the BTS camera crew to now get budgeted for 15 to 20 days of shooting on set, perhaps even more. The result is that the special features share the spotlight with the movie itself. And, in case you're interested, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring took home the most DVD kudos, five trophies in all. With this kind of prestige at stake, how long will it be before someone decides to do a BTS special about the making of a BTS DVD?
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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