With the proliferation of digital cameras, set publicists are frequently called upon to act as security guards, apprehending anyone illegally taping movie productions. Often there are a dozen or so individuals covertly capturing the action. And that's just crew members! God only knows how many street-side onlookers are playing Spielberg.Some film departments have legitimate reasons for taping. Visual effects supervisors shoots stills or moving images to determine how to proceed with developing matte shots and computer-generated images. The script supervisor sometimes takes pictures to solve continuity questions. Wardrobe and hair-and-make-up almost always require on-set photography. But when the boom mike operator and the key grip are making their own home movies, well, it becomes a murky issue.
It's not unheard of for digital footage to be posted on the web of a movie still shooting - sometimes of scenes shot the day before. And with so many people wielding cameras, it's next to impossible to determine the guilty party. The issue has become serious enough that some members of the publicists guild (well, the former publicists guild; we're now part of the cinematographers union) want to create a "digital imagery" job on the set.
This designated crew member would be in charge of collecting and appropriately disseminating digital imagery for all departments. But ensuring that everyone adheres to such a system would be problematic. Many a movie and TV star has an assistant or rep taking photos or home movies of practically every scene. These stars are not overly inclined to follow any dictates prohibiting private taping - even if the memo comes from the producers. And producers will often leave the enforcement of such mandates to the publicist, so as not to create any area of friction with the stars.
I, however, have devised my own system for squelching amateur auteurs, which has proven most effective: my cousin Albert from New Jersey. Albert has a nose that somewhat resembles Jersey itself. It's been broken six times - twice "legitimately,
Albert claims, and four times during, I quote, "misunderstandings that manifested themselves into physical resolutions."
Albert, because of his looming frame, husky force, and aforementioned curvy nose, has mastered the art of eliciting voluntary compliance. But I think it's really more his command of the language that disarms would-be video pirates.
"Yuse should not be engaged in this particular type of filming activity,
he gently intones. "Yours camera angles and framing are not appropriately conveying the creative vision, sensibility, and tone desired by the filmmakers. Perhaps your own unique talents might be better employed by capturing those fleeting, precious moments one encounters in ordinary life."
He has failed to dissuade in but one instance - that of a determined woman who persisted in shooting her own version of the film, and then promoted it as "the wardrobe assistant's cut.
Some visionaries will simply not be denied.