The Publicist:

Movie-poster photo shoots don't always portray a positive image

Movie-poster photo shoots don't always portray a positive image

I'm in the wrong business. I should have been a hair stylist. That's where the money is. Lots. Over the weekend, I helped coordinate a poster photo shoot for the movie I'm working on, and the hair and makeup artists made out like bandits. As many of my fellow PR pros know, stylists charge much higher fees for advertising shoots than for publicity or editorial sessions. And because this particular shoot took place on a Saturday, the hair and makeup team charged a "sixth-day" rate in addition to their already handsome fees. Originally intended to include two of the film's stars, the session had to be scaled back to just one because the studio couldn't cover the costs of camera styling the second actor. The makeup artist - already making almost $4,000 for doing the hair of the leading lady - wanted another $3,500 to "do the hair" of the male actor. And he's bald! Seriously. True, makeup would need to be applied to the aforementioned chrome dome, but c'mon, let's not lose our heads here. It's this kind of "all-aboard-the-money-train" mentality that makes poster shoots exorbitantly expensive, especially when long-distance travel is involved. Without exception, when the "studio" comes to town, everybody lines up at the trough. (The actor involved in our shoot also charged the production company for a "retinue," which consisted of six people sitting around watching.) The photographers have an even sweeter deal. Their fees often range from $10,000 to $40,000. They arrive with two or three assistants, a creative director, a producer, and a partridge in a pear tree. The assistants are valuable, I'll admit, because they're often the ones who actually know how the equipment operates. Believe it or not, I've seen high-priced photogs who did not know how to work the camera. In one case, the assistant had to intervene a few times. Meanwhile, the "artist" just pointed and clicked. And prayed, presumably. I recall a poster shoot three years ago on a film I was doing in Prague that cost $50,000, and none of the photos were used. None. These pricey, often uninspired shoots continue because that's the way it's always been done. It's difficult to change a self-perpetuating business model. But, having been part of more than 20 such shoots, I must ask: How many filmgoers are persuaded to watch a movie simply because of the poster? Fewer than the number of hair stylists who've bought second homes. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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