TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Star-news crew barter usually ends up a rawdeal for publicist

It sounded fair enough. In exchange for an exclusive on-set interview with the unknown female lead in the movie, the local television station agreed to shoot a PSA she needed to do for an international health foundation.

It sounded fair enough. In exchange for an exclusive on-set interview with the unknown female lead in the movie, the local television station agreed to shoot a PSA she needed to do for an international health foundation.

I had come up with the idea because the people who would otherwise have had to pay for an ENG (electronic news gathering) crew would have preferred not to. Hence, the barter proposal, which they loved. But having seen these attempts go awry in the past, I was wary.

On the scheduled day, the crew was whisked away for a major breaking news story - an apartment building had just burned down, and numerous people were injured. After several hours of exchanging calls and waiting expectantly, the crew's producer called and said that they wouldn't be able to make it. They'd try again tomorrow. Maybe no buildings will catch on fire.

Day two. The crew arrived on time, expecting to complete their interview and PSA and get out of there in an hour. News crews are used to the hit-and-run. Grab some video, get some sound bites, do a quick stand-up, and rush off to the next story. I had explained to them that it might take a little while. To a news crew, a little while is 30 minutes. On a film set, it can be four hours.

To ease their impatience, I let them shoot some b-roll of the scene being filmed, even though that wasn't part of the original deal. It wasn't an exciting scene, but whatever: they were shooting something. But since the same scene was being done over and over, it quickly became tiresome.

How many times can a bored field producer watch an actress enter a door and say hello before he starts hoping for a spot news story to pull him away? Anything. A car crash, a robbery, a tree falling on someone's house.

Small talk was no longer effective.

It had been an hour and 45 minutes, and his patience had run out. Visibly angry, he told the crew to pack up, even though we had finally just been promised the star in two minutes.

"But she's on her way,

I pleaded. "She'll be in the chair before you can turn your lights back on."

No good. They stormed off the set, my threats following them out the door. "You'll never work in this town again,

I cried. "You're finished, you hear me? Finished!"

That felt good. Too bad they didn't hear me. Who else can I yell at?

Not the star, obviously. That's the thing about stars: No matter how long they keep you waiting, they are always genuinely shocked to find out someone didn't wait for them.

"Don't worry, we'll go ahead and pay for a crew for tomorrow,

I assured her. "That way, they'll have to wait all day for you.

She liked the sound of that.

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