The Publicist:

Indie-film publicists don't enjoy the freedom many might expect

Indie-film publicists don't enjoy the freedom many might expect

The Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped last week, had a big impact on the marketplace.

And me. One of the independent films I'm involved with was picked up for US distribution by a major studio, which means I'll soon have its publicity staff bombarding me with requests, demands, and, worse, additional work. Do this, do that, send us this. And I only had two weeks to go before wrap. Guess I'll have to put the vacation brochures aside and dig out some old status reports.

Working on an indie film is much different than a studio picture. With the former, the unit publicist reports essentially only to the on-set filmmakers and interacts with perhaps one or two PR people at a production company. A small family. But when the studio steps in, everything changes. The publicist's little empire crumbles to the prevailing force of Hollywood's machinery.

But that's not all bad. At least someone is in charge. With indies, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen - and not all of them follow the same recipe. That's because non-studio films are typically financed by "pre-selling" distribution rights to various world markets before the film is even made. (Additional territories are often sold during the production of the film. Whaddya say, Slovakia? Interested in a murder mystery with a big-name cast? Take a look at these cool photos taken last week on set!) Without a big-studio daddy lording over them, these international distributors do things their own way, sometimes disseminating press releases, photos, or improperly worded synopses without running them past the filmmakers or the unit publicist.

Case in point: On another picture I'm working on that was pitched at Cannes, a bit of a tussle occurred between the sales company for the film and one of the producers, who was irked at not having the chance to approve the materials given to one of the trade papers. Caught in the crossfire, I managed to extricate myself and broker a peace deal shortly before a distribution deal was announced. There's no Nobel Peace Prize at stake, certainly, but this kind of thing is great training for someone planning to reconcile disputes at the UN. Give me a call.

Anyway, so much for using the final weeks getting a jump on writing the production notes and photo IDs. Now I'll have to help with the influx of studio execs and likely schedule a press junket. Barbarians are about to storm the gate, and I have to arrange their tickets.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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