In Hollywood, you do not want to be sent inRemember that hilarious Seinfeld episode where George Costanza's girlfriend dumps him with the preface, "It's not you, it's me"?
Veteran of innumerable breakups, George instantly recognizes the falsity of the phrase and reacts with indignation. "I invented 'It's not you, it's me,'" he shouts. "If it's anyone, it's me."
There's a parallel to this cop-out phrase in the film industry: "We're going in another direction." It's how producers and agents tell actors and publicists that they didn't get the gig for which they had auditioned or interviewed.
In Hollywood, no one wants to say no or deliver bad news - even to low-on-the-food-chain publicists. You never know, today's publicist might be tomorrow's studio VP. So the rule is: Never be honest. Under no circumstances admit, "We found someone more suitable for the project." Or "We didn't feel the right chemistry with you." Or "There are so few women on set we decided to go with a gal who's a cousin to the director. She has no experience, but great hair."
Anyone remotely connected to the industry for more than two weeks will hear, "We're going in another direction." I surely have, especially in the early days. I was always tempted to inquire, "Just what direction, exactly, did you decide to go? Away from good and toward bad? Directly to the bottom of the box office?"
One producer of an upcoming "action comedy" recently tried to offload the cursed line to a publicist pal of mine who's been in the business 15 years. She, like George, wasn't having it.
"I told him I'd been around too long to hear that pathetic phrase," she confided in me. "I wished him well in hiring a publicist who might sleep with him."
I wouldn't recommend her approach, but my friend is about to retire and become a full-time mom. We had a nice laugh over it. "I can't wait until I'm ready to quit so I can tell off a producer like that," I told her. "I fantasize about the things I'll say."
Until then, publicists have to master their own insincere equivalent of "going in a different direction." It's called sucking up - the art of telling a filmmaker, with a straight face, how much you enjoyed his crummy film. Pretending the script you just read is marvelous and that you've always dreamt of working on a movie about werewolf plumbers. If you can't fake that, your career will inevitably go in "another direction."
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer