TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Studios welcome press with open arms ... andan eye on the clock

It's fitting that the movie I'm working on now has a war backdrop

because we are being invaded ourselves. The first wave began Wednesday

and comes to a finale today. It's press day!



'What?' the producer asked me with a combination scowl/look of disbelief

when I casually mentioned to him a while back that there would be, um,

well, about 60 people descending onto his set this week for what the

studio likes to call an 'affiliate special.'



His scowl/look of disbelief contorted into what can best be described as

one of incredulous shock. 'I've made entire movies with fewer people

than that. Rome was built with fewer. What the hell???'



I meekly offered an attempted explanation. 'OK, well, now, let's

see ...



20 journalists from across the country, nine cameramen, a director, an

assistant director, production coordinator, production manager, location

liaison, lots of assistants, studio publicity executives, drivers,

caterer.



Oh, and six wranglers to escort the reporters. You know, make sure they

don't stray.'



'Damn,' he mumbled, walking away. 'I will just be damned ...'



These on-set junkets are a very effective, if cumbersome, way to drum up

publicity for a big film. Entertainment reporters from New York to LA,

and all the small towns in between, come to the set for interviews with

the actors and filmmakers.



Then all the folks back home will see their very own local reporter

talking to a major star and be suitably impressed. I know I used to be

when I watched the local news back home.



The drawback is that each reporter gets only about five minutes for each

interview, which leaves time for little more than the obligatory

effusive compliments (how much they enjoyed the star's last film,

thought he should have won an award) and a reminder of the last time

they interviewed the star (probably at another junket.)



On Wednesday we will take the group to one of our exterior sets which,

the last time I was there, was an enormous mud bath. We warn the

reporters to 'dress for the rugged outdoors,' but if experience holds

true, at least two of the women (and possibly some of the men) will show

up in high heels. No kidding. Happens every time.



Affiliate specials deliver a big bang because the reporters will devote

an entire week to promoting and airing the segments when the film is

released.



'Tomorrow, please join Channel Five News for my exclusive interview with

the director of this summer's hottest film ... and be sure to tune in

Friday when I go one-on-one with the biggest star in the world.' See,

now that's worth passing up Jeopardy for.



Finally, we pack them all off on the plane, weighed down with

commemorative gifts and souvenirs.



It's kind of like hosting family for the weekend. Glad to have you. Glad

you're leaving.



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