film festival diary '97
Day 1 > 2 > 3 > 4 > 5 > 6 > 7 > 8
Day Two
 

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>>The "online interview" never happened.
 
SHOOT TODAY WITH ROBIN WRIGHT-PENN and the director of her latest film. A really discouraging experience from the beginning. The editor/publisher of our paper has fallen in love with the Net and decided that we should have "streamed audio" interviews on the web page edition. An awful lot of work for the interviewer, who has to learn to use this beat-up DAT machine and sweat about sounding smooth when she asks questions. Basically, it's ridiculous - you're trying to turn a print media into a broadcast media, and interfering with what your writer does well.
>>Festival interview/photo shoots are rarely longer than half an hour, and usually more like twenty minutes -- in theory.

In reality though, they're more like fifteen, as the five minutes I'm promised at the end is always cut short by the publicist.  I've gotten good at getting something printable in one roll.  Some shoots last barely a minute. 
 
In addition, we only have a precious twenty minutes, and I'm asked to take pictures while the interview is happening, which I hate. I like to have at least a hint of rapport with my subjects, if even for a minute, but I'm told this might won't be possible, and could I shoot while Ingrid talks.  Okay, whatever. My shots won't run with the online interview, but will appear in the paper when the movie opens. 

We get into the room, where Ms. Wright-Penn and the director, Erin Dignam, are waiting for us in chairs in the corner, and are hustled in hot on the heels of the last interviewer, assembly-line fashion. 
 

>>My 35mm camera is a Canon EOS Elan. It's a cheap, amateur camera made of plastic and polycarbonate. If it breaks, you're better off throwing it out than fixing it.

Canon EOS ElanIngrid puts the DAT on a table and I put a long lens on my Canon and sit next to her on the bed.  I start shooting as the interview starts, hoping to get something good fast so I can leave them alone, but every time I train the camera on Robin Wright-Penn she averts here eyes, or plays with her hair. I get a couple of good shots of the director, but I can't get a good angle on the actress. 

I get up and stand behind Ingrid, take a couple of shots, and notice the publicity flack making "slash-across-the-throat" gestures and mouthing "Stop!". I go over to her and ask what's up. 

"You're making her uncomfortable. Stop taking pictures."

>>There's a kind of law that dictates increasingly greater grief and frustration in proportion to the degree of celebrity you're working with.

Publicists are the ususal enforcers of this law, along with managers, minders, and even make-up people and drivers.  Celebrity, for some reason, inspires most people into a frenzy of petty bureaucracy and forelock-tugging.

During the Film Festival, this law is enforced to the power of ten.
 
I explain that she knew a photographer was going to be at the interview, and that if they wanted me not to shoot during the interview, they should have given me a few minutes alone with the subjects. 

"Well, what's this for, anyway?" she asks. 

Uhhh, NOW magazine, I reply. You know that, don't you? To go with the print interview... 

"Oh, well, it's not going to be released." she says with calm, insider's finality.

I honestly don't know what the hell she's talking about. They've hired me to take pictures, and if they weren't going to run the story, they wouldn't need pictures. I mean, I doubt if they'd waste their money...? 

She seems to see that I'm not going to give up, and agrees to get me a minute as soon as the interview ends. I thank her and wait by the door of the room. I notice that the director is answering most of the questions, but Ms.Wright-Penn is looking either out the window or at her feet. She's quite pretty in person, but sits hunched in her chair like a high school student waiting outside the principal's office for suspension. She's obviously not enjoying this. 

>>The movie, "Loved", opened briefly and bombed.

 
 
 
>>With my Canon's built-in motor drive and auto-focus, I can shoot 36 frames in less than forty seconds. I often do. It's amazing what you can accomplish, though, even working this quickly.
 
Nor am I. Which begs the question: Why are we here, then? 

Finally the interview ends and I rush in as the flack asks if I can get a couple of shots. I shoot the two women together, then the actress alone. 

"Is that some kind of auto-focus thing you've got on your camera?" she asks. (2002 update: It's 1997, don't forget, so autofocus is pretty new stuff.)

I tell her that me eyesight's pretty bad, not wanting to bother telling her that I like this feature; that it helps me work faster in tense situations like this, which seem to happen more and more frequently, lately. I get a half-dozen or so headshots, thank her, and leave the room. 

Today, I hate my job.

 Photos and writing ©1997 Rick McGinnis.  All rights reserved.

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