TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Small-town press plus big-star aura equalsdog-tired publicist

When you're handling movie publicity on location in a very small town, the local press might be viewed as a hungry stray dog. Feed it enough to make it go away, but not so much it will want to return for more. It's a delicate balance, and if you don't feed it at all, it will nip your heels in the form of negative stories. Here are the typical angles adopted by scorned scribes: The production is causing traffic problems (there are only three stoplights) and preventing good folks from frequenting their favorite establishments. (Never mind that proprietors jumped at the opportunity to shut down in exchange for generous compensatory fees.) The lights are keeping residents up at night (no one is in bed; they're all watching from the street). And, finally, those movie people are so rude.

When you're handling movie publicity on location in a very small town, the local press might be viewed as a hungry stray dog. Feed it enough to make it go away, but not so much it will want to return for more. It's a delicate balance, and if you don't feed it at all, it will nip your heels in the form of negative stories. Here are the typical angles adopted by scorned scribes: The production is causing traffic problems (there are only three stoplights) and preventing good folks from frequenting their favorite establishments. (Never mind that proprietors jumped at the opportunity to shut down in exchange for generous compensatory fees.) The lights are keeping residents up at night (no one is in bed; they're all watching from the street). And, finally, those movie people are so rude.

Occasionally such stories are true. Usually, however, they're baseless, written by the jilted "entertainment/crime/wedding/business/high school" beat reporter who's upset that one of the world's biggest stars is uninterested in doing an interview for a community reader.

"But I'll include a photo,

the reporter insists, before cutting off the conversation to go cover a grease fire at the donut shop. Sure, there's goodwill to be had in cooperating with local outlets, and most publicists are happy to provide facts for a story, or arrange interviews with the executive producer. God knows they have the time to do them. But sometimes, as in the case of the hungry dog, the reporters only grow bolder with such access, and demand an interview with The Star.

Since skittish producers dread the thought of bad press causing political problems, they often require the poor publicist (read: me) to ask The Star if he'll ascent to an interview with the aforementioned beat reporter, who also happens to sit on the city council. They don't have the nerve to ask The Star themselves, mind you. That's what the publicist is for.

Let him (read: me) take the heat.

So I did, sounding like a sixth grader asking my parents if they'd had a chance to sign my report card.

"Um, I hate to bother you with this, but the production, um, thinks, well, it may help us out with local ordinances if we, I mean, if you, did, like, a small interview, um, with the...you know, local paper..."

The Star responds, "Didn't know they had a paper here."

"Oh, yes...it's a weekly. Well, bi-weekly. It's called The Scoop, I think.

Yeah, I think that's it,

I say, bracing for worst.

The Star agreed. Reluctantly.

The reporter was thrilled. Me too. Until the prop guy approached and said his daughter was visiting the set tomorrow. Could I possibly ask The Star if he wouldn't mind...

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