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“You’re A Movie Star. Be Generous.”

I actually had to say this to a client recently. The job was media training an actor who was about to go on a press junket to promote a new feature film. The studio brought me in because they were concerned the actor would not make a good impression. This is a critical issue because the more positively the public feels toward an actor, the more likely it is that they’ll go to see the film. It’s the job of selling.

Upon meeting this individual, it was not immediately clear to me that my recommendations would be accepted. My first clue was the refusal to be videotaped. This is typical with the Hollywood set. They really don’t like to watch themselves. I have some sympathy because as painful as it is for us mortals to look at ourselves on video, it must be 10 times more difficult for people who are filmed for a living. Often, it’s not much of a concern because the issues tend to be about what to say rather than how to say it.

In this case, however, I felt videotaping was critical because during my research, I had watched footage of this person’s prior interviews. There were many problems including appearing fidgety, nervous, humorless and irritated. Unfortunately, my instincts were correct in that my recommendation to be videotaped was not accepted. So we had to do without.

We subsequently spent the next three-and-a-half hours dissecting the answers this actor would likely give to a variety of questions we anticipated would be asked by the entertainment press. As we progressed, I detected some loosening up and we got to the truth. “I don’t like doing interviews.” the actor said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I always get burned. No matter what I say, reporters twist it around and it comes out badly.”

Now it’s quite true that the Hollywood press has an insatiable appetite for dirt and gossip and there are reporters who are not honorable. Still, most of them are. They are looking for that one thing, especially elusive with film actors—connection. They want a good interview. They don’t want to have to deal with a lack of enthusiasm. They don’t want to have to pull teeth to get answers to their questions. They want to like the subject of the interview and have something resembling a conversation.

So if an actor walks in with an attitude, behaves like he or she doesn’t want to be there and refuses to hold up his or her end of the conversation, the reporter can get miffed, turned off. The interview can become adversarial and it is less likely the profile will be positive. This is too bad because for a film to be successful these days, the press has to be on board. Studios have extensive marketing plans and a big component of those plans is having the actors, especially the stars, man the front lines. Most actors don’t have a choice in the matter as press contact is stipulated in their contracts.

This is certainly not an easy job as anyone who has ever had details of his or her private life splashed across the front page of some tabloid knows. It’s not the fun part. But it goes with the territory. With fame and fortune comes scrutiny. We can argue about whether there is too much scrutiny (probably) and too little privacy (definitely). Still, rising to the level of movie star is a pretty amazing accomplishment and an exceedingly rare thing. Reporters are just doing their job. As the media trainer, I have to say to actors, “You are in control. They only get what you give them. You’re a movie star. Be generous.”

It’s true for the rest of us, too. We may not be movie stars, but they only get what we give them. Be generous.

Copyright 2007 Ruth Sherman.  All Rights Reserved.

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