Ah, autumn. School, football, foliage ...
Here in LA, leaves don't change colors and there's no pro football team,
so we only know summer has ended when the "Fall Preview" publications
suddenly arrive. My mailbox is stuffed with them. Hey, wait a damn
minute - what happened to the 4th of July? Did we skip it this year?
Time, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, et al, have all
delivered preview editions, and the upcoming movies appear to be a
welcome relief from the childish dreck of the past four months. It's
nice to have new TV episodes, too, but I'll miss the televised car
chases. (For some reason, probably heat, it seems there are more police
pursuits during summer.)
Inclusion in the fall previews is of paramount importance to studios and
networks, whose publicists spend most of July diligently preparing press
kits, key art selections and teaser reels for the editors who determine
which titles get prominent mention. A double-page spread is the Holy
Grail, but only four films received such favored treatment in
Entertainment Weekly: Zoolander, From Hell, Harry Potter and Gangs of
New York. Cruise & Cruz got the cover for Vanilla Sky.
A publicist at Rogers & Cowan told me, "I doubt Vanilla Sky would have
been on the cover if Tom and Penelope weren't a couple. It'll be
interesting to see if they're still dating after the film is released."
Hmmm ... I put in a call to Entertainment Weekly, but publicist Anne
Fair Hart said the editorial staff was "not comfortable" discussing its
selection criteria. C'mon, EW, what are you scared of?
Janice Simpson wasn't afraid to discuss the subject with me. She edits
the fall preview for the biggest kahuna of all, Time, which carries as
much weight as the rest of the mags combined. Simpson's writers sift
through reams of material, which must arrive by August 6 to meet an
August 24 closing date. In categories such as cinema, television, music,
art, dance and books, she highlights two picks: one with the most buzz,
and one that's the personal favorite of her in-house critics.
"We made our selection based on what people are talking about, what they
seem to be most interested in," she said. "The biggest cinema buzz this
fall is on Harry Potter." Hard to argue. The buzz for this one began the
moment they announced a worldwide casting search for the lead. (Am I the
only one who hasn't read this book?)
Premiere magazine, meanwhile, put Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood on
the cover of its fall movie preview.
While publicists may attempt to influence with snazzy letters and phone
pitches, Simpson says those tactics don't work for the preview
"It's hard for a publicist to convince me a film she's repping has buzz
if that's the first time I've heard of it," she says. Like laughter, you
just can't fake the buzz.