TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Publicists jump through hoops to keepeveryone happy on set

All I know is they've asked me to find them a trampoline, I told the star, revealing the full but limited extent of my intelligence gathering about the "creative concept for an upcoming photo shoot. It was a big deal because a big-shot photographer was arriving on set in two days to shoot the poster for the movie. Notoriously tight-lipped about their "creative ideas, the studio advertising department would only share with us their requirement for, yes, a trampoline.

All I know is they've asked me to find them a trampoline, I told the star, revealing the full but limited extent of my intelligence gathering about the "creative concept for an upcoming photo shoot. It was a big deal because a big-shot photographer was arriving on set in two days to shoot the poster for the movie. Notoriously tight-lipped about their "creative ideas, the studio advertising department would only share with us their requirement for, yes, a trampoline.

"A trampoline, the star moaned. "What the hell do they need a trampoline for?"

"Well, I suspect they intend for you to, um, jump up and down on it."

"That's unbelievable, the star replied. "I don't know about this."

"Let's see what they have to say when they arrive, I offered. "Maybe it will be more than that."

It wasn't. They simply wanted the star to bounce around on the trampoline while the photographer snapped away. Two months of creative brainstorming, and this is what they came up with? What about my idea, with the mule and the fire truck?

The cost of photo shoots for the movie poster, known as the "one sheet," can be exorbitant. More than exorbitant. More than most publicists make in an entire year. And that's not including the room-service tab. In addition to the photographer and his staff of no less than three assistants (who perform their mission wearing the stern, self important countenance of a royal guard), there is also a minimum of two studio execs in attendance.

They generally stand around looking impressed while the big-shot photographer ignores them. Occasionally, they sidle over and say, "Isn't he fabulous?"

Studio advertising and publicity departments like to maintain their independence.

They accomplish this by not speaking to each other, like the CIA and the FBI. Ad executives never solicit input from the filmmakers or publicist beforehand, doubting, or perhaps fearing, that those of us who have been working on the project for three months might have something useful to add. This causes publicists to complain that $250,000-a-year ad execs just recycle one idea over and over, and spend most of their time planning travel itineraries for the locations they will be visiting. That's not true, although it does seem that too many movie posters are derivative.

On several films I've worked on, the images from the ad shoot were scuttled in favor of a shot by the unit photographer.

Fortunately, the star did, indeed, mount the trampoline. The shots were quite amusing, I have to admit. He even seemed to enjoy himself, although there was the occasional glance out of the corner of his eye that seemed to say, "I know this wasn't your idea, but I'm blaming you anyway."

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