Film festivals need celebrities.

Bottom line, they do. As much as someone like myself can sing their virtues like a Meadowlark Lemon, as many times as I can explain that while you can watch a movie anywhere at anytime and you can’t see the majority of them on the big screen anymore, and it’s even more rare that you’ll get to see (and maybe even, meet) the man or woman who directed it to ask them questions and hear cool behind-the-scenes stories up close and personal – the general interest will always be driven by the appearance of someone we all recognize.

That’s just the way it is and those of us who work with film festivals have to deal.

Again, bottom line.

And celebrities are bombarded monthly, weekly, and daily with requests to appear at events, sign stuff and endorse the craziest crap you could imagine. When I worked in personal PR, one of my jobs was to collect and distill all of these requests for various actors and actresses. I would write little one line Reader’s Digest versions of the requests and send them off to the agents or managers or personal assistants.

And they would almost never read them.

No, more often than not, I would then have to make a follow up phone call and the rep in question would say something like, “Oh, yeah. No, I didn’t even look at it. I mean, it’s been crazy here. Just pass on everything.” And that’s what would happen unless I then said, “Are you sure? What about (fill in the blank)?” And then there might – just might – be a sigh, followed by “Okay, send that one over and I’ll run it by Ms. Movie Star.” Now, I do have to say that occasionally the client WOULD go through the list I took time to make and send responses – even wait for it… ask for more information on the ask. You want some names of the ones that stayed involved and took more than just a passing interest in what was being asked of them? How about Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Josh Brolin? There’s a good trio of movie stars with integrity for you. There – movie stars need shout outs too sometimes.

Anyway, a lot of groups and clubs and charities and well,…people are asking these actors and actresses and directors CONSTANTLY to come appear at their little event. So it is more than understandable that film festivals also get lumped in with everyone else with no more priority than anyone else.  And yet, the reality for the film festival is that if they don’t score a few of those stars then Mr. and Mrs. Movie Watcher might decide that they might just choose a third viewing of TOY STORY 3 over the heartwarming little indie film about lesbian parents of an albino boy with a special needs friend unless either Carla Gugino or Piper Perabo are going to be there, too. Or maybe they’ll make the trek out to the theater to watch SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION on the big screen and see Morgan Freeman talk about that on-set prankster Tim Robbins even though for the past three years there has been some sort of law dictating you must view it at least once a year in order to have the Turner Broadcast Network on your cable system.

The truth is that those usually are very cool moments and experiences to have in person. I once saw David Lynch give a thought out and legitimate answer during an INLAND EMPIRE Q&A to the following question: “What are your thoughts about the color blue?” I kid you not. I was about to take the guy out like a Secret Service dude amped on Red Bull until Lynch started his reply, “I’ve actually been thinking about the color blue a lot recently…”

All of this is to give context to something that happened last week as The Feel Good Film Festival gets things in gear for this year’s edition of the film festival in L.A. We put out a press release announcing the lineup of films on the schedule and as a smaller niche or ethnic film festival will often do (in fact, the larger ones do it as well), we listed the stars and recognizable names that would be appearing in the films. This is how it read:

Other stars dotting the 2010 FGFF schedule include James Darren, Sally Field, Jorja Fox, Gregory Harrison, Cliff Robertson (ACCIDENTAL ICON: THE REAL GIDGET STORY), Greta Gerwig, Iggy Pop (ART HOUSE), Daniel Baldwin, Orson Bean, Willie Garson, Clint Howard, Craig Sheffer (ASHLEY’S ASHES), Margot Farley, Mitzi Kapture, John Saxon, Tim Thomerson (GOD’S EARS), Anne Hathaway, Leeza Gibbons (10 MOUNTAINS 10 YEARS), Beth Grant (HERPES BOY), James Hong, Jenna Jameson, Ken Jeong, Josh Meyers, Kristen Ritter, Ian Somerhalder (HOW TO MAKE LOVE TO A WOMAN), Tim Allen, Louis C.K., Tommy Davidson, Dana Gould, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman (I AM COMIC) and Elaine Hendrix (THE CLOGGERS).

Pretty basic stuff. Still early in the game, so we couldn’t announce or confirm anyone coming to the film festival yet, so you do the next best thing: announce the fact that at least the pass holders and ticket buyers will be able to recognize some faces on the screen.

The press release goes out, the press reports on it and that night we get an email from Gregory Harrison that says the following:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’ve been asked by some of my online fans about my “announced participation” in the Feel Good Film Festival this coming weekend. In actual fact I have not been invited, nor have I ever agreed to be a part of the festival. Please cease and desist from using my name in any advertising or any announcements referencing this event.


Gregory Harrison

Now, the truth was – other than possibly personal invites from the filmmakers and director themselves, I don’t think anyone had actually been invited to attend the film festival at that point. I could be wrong. And while we definitely did not mean to mislead anyone that any of those stars would be appearing or attending (I personally hate and refuse to do that kind of bait-and-switch crap), I guess you could make the case that in a world beset with Team Edward and Team Jacob craziness and fan fervor that people could make some overheated assumptions. And apparently the “Trapper John” faithful has been hungering for a Gregory Harrison sighting or to score some “Dr. Gonzo Gates” love, but now that really won’t happen.

Let’s face it, when your event has a mandate to make everyone “feel good,” you aren’t accustomed to being asked to “cease” and “desist”. No one expects the proper authorities to be called in to service to keep those smiles and happiness from being doled out. But there you have it. And speaking, again, as someone who dealt with a lot of celebrity apathy toward anything that occurred outside of the trades, their PS3 or their digs in Malibu, I have to have admiration for the personal approach on this. Harrison no doubt has dealt in the past with some charity event benefiting homeless iguanas or Post Sudoku Stress Syndrome promising he would appear and sign your Trapper John swag. Or something of that nature.

Of course, that is not what happened here. And the sad thing is that the staff would certainly have sent a formal invitation because the truth is it actually would have been a big deal to have him there. Just as it will be HUGE to have any three or four people from that list from the press release show up at the Egyptian Theatre Courtyard. It would have been fun and great and it might have been one more thing to convince that family of four to go there instead of watching CGI dogs duke it out all Bond-style with CGI cats.

However, that won’t be happening so I feel it is my clear and absolute duty to communicate the following:

Gregory Harrison will not be attending The 3rd Feel Good Film Festival on August 13-15 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Yes, he is a subject in the documentary ACCIDENTAL ICON: THE REAL GIDGET that will be screening at the festival. But that in no way guarantees that Gregory Harrison will make an appearance on FGFF’s famous Yellow Carpet (saluting FGFF’s delightful sunflower logo). Honestly, it’s highly doubtful that Sally Field, James Darren, Cliff Robertson or many others participants in the charming documentary about the real person behind the international phenomenon will be there either. The real Gidget, Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, yes. And the director, Brian Gillogly, absolutely. But all those other people – likely not. And Pernell Roberts? Definitely not.

So if you were thinking of going to the Feel Good Film Festival expressly to see Gregory Harrison then we would have to advise NOT doing so because we believe Gregory Harrison has been very clear that he will in fact NOT be seen on the Yellow Carpet, nor will Gregory Harrison be attending the screening of the documentary. And we take Gregory Harrison at his word that he will not be participating in a Q&A afterwards. The best we would be able to do is maybe have a P.A. we will affectionately refer to as “Gonzo” available for photos and autographs. But that’s pretty much it.

Smiles everyone, smiles!

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  1. Jordan Brady says:

    I am offering to send a shiny limousine for Mr. Carl Reiner to come to the Feel Good Festival tomorrow to see my film, “I AM COMIC.” It’s a docu on the art & occupational hazards of Stand Up comedy.

    “The Jerk” was my film school. “Dill Scallion” is plot-inspired from that classic.

    To have Mr. Reiner see the film and laugh would make my decade. Then together, Mr. Reiner and i shall piss on the Yellow Carpet.

    Yeah, this has nothing to do with the whole thing above. I’m just frakin’ giddy and taking a chance. Mr. Reiner? Where can I pick you up?


    Jordan Brady
    director, “I AM COMIC”

  2. justina says:

    “I wouldn’t even come to your fuckface film festival to urinate on the red carpet.” It actually would be even funnier, ‘cuz their red carpet is yellow.

    God love you, “Carl Reiner.” You remind me to call my dad. You two are only a couple years apart and cut from the same cloth.

  3. John Wildman says:

    Mr. Reiner –

    Wow. With all due respect (and I mean that – I have a great deal of respect for you and your place in the world of comedy), I have to tell you that you have gotten yourself worked up over nothing.

    I don’t write for any other websites and I haven’t posted on another website. So I don’t know what you are referring to here. What’s more I have not insulted a single soul on this column or my response to Gregory Harrison’s first comment regarding the column.

    There was a simple misunderstanding about the original press release which I discussed in the column. AND I absolutely admitted to understanding where someone might have really read something completely wrong from that press release. I genuinely feel that the assumption was a huge reach. And no one had ever made that mistake in the five years that I have been writing press releases like that for the film festivals I do the PR for. (But I will grant you that in the future I’ll be underlining the fact that those listings don’t translate to appearances – because God only knows I don’t want a repeat of this skirmish.)

    I also – since there is a whole lot of assuming the wrong things here – feel I need to point out that the comment following your comment attributed to “John” certainly wasn’t from me. That was really rude and unfortunate and I’m sorry someone wrote that.

    To be fair, you don’t know anything about me. Or what I do. Or how I think. You have just flown off the handle in defense of your friend. Which, while in spirit is admirable, I still have to say is misguided. There really is no there there.

    Why don’t you actually read what I wrote and you’ll see that the truth is that I made clear I understood completely Gregory’s reaction even as I disagreed with the conclusions he was drawing from it. Did I have some fun with the overall approach to the column? And was some of that fun at his expense? Absolutely. Of course it was. But it was also a balanced approach to the discussion at hand. No one respects the process and protocol more than I do, but the “cease and desist” language was complete overkill in this case. So – that, combined with the idea to pull back the curtain somewhat on the process (which is why I was asked to write for Film Threat in the first place) inspired the column.

    However, I will apologize to your friend. I may find this back and forth and the misunderstandings herein absurd, but I also understand that offense was taken – regardless of the fact that certainly was never the intention.

    So, with that I say (and I am being sincere, here) good day to you, sir.

  4. Carl Reiner says:

    Three days have passed, Mr. Wildman, since you disrespected Mr. Harrison and still no apology. However, my assistant showed me the nasty things you have written about him and me on another website. You are a putz. Mr. Harrison craps more integrity than you’ve displayed here. I’m 88 years old and I’ve seen a million punks like you come and go. If you hadn’t recently insulted one of my dear friends I wouldn’t give you the time of day. I feel compelled to inform people reading this what a vile low life you are. Mr. Harrison can do what he wants, but I wouldn’t even come to your fuckface film festival to urinate on the red carpet. Good day.

  5. Chessica Moon says:

    I think that there has been a big misunderstanding and I am hoping that everyone involved can see past this situation. I can see where fans would think that the actors were going to be at the FGFF and on the Red Carpet. And, I can also see where those people may need to read the article over again to get the correct information. As for why I am expressing my opinion about this situation, I have worked in the PR Department for over four years at the Dallas International Film Festival with John Wildman and I can honestly say that he would never and has never done the “bait and switch” thing to get fans to a festival.

    I help run the Red Carpet for John in Dallas and when I do the tip sheets, we find out if the talent will be able to walk the carpet before we even invite the press to the event that very same day. I helped John with getting the pictures of the all the talent out to the press this year and the talent had to be confirmed by their Publicist or Agent before the article could be released. John Wildman makes sure this is correct and that his crew is sending out the proper information, he just wouldn’t do that to the fans or to the Talent. I know that John really respects all of those that decide to participate or not to participate in the festivals. I just wanted to let Mr. Harrison and Mr. Reiner know that my experience with working for John Wildman has been positive.

    Saying that – Mr. Harrison, I would honestly be thrilled to see you on the FGFF Carpet or at any Red Carpet event! You have so many dedicated fans because of your talent! Go and have fun, it would be great for so many people to see you there! And, Mr. Reiner….I think that you are just one of the greatest writers of all time! (If my friends think that I am sucking up by writing this, I am not and I don’t really care…I am just an honest person that speaks her mind.) I really think that things can be worked out by communicating and I hope that they will.

    Chessica Moon

  6. Jessica Berlin says:

    Personally what I found confusing was “Other stars dotting the 2010 FGFF schedule include James Darren, Sally Field, Jorja Fox, Gregory Harrison,” It doesn’t say FILM schedule so it could seem like a schedule of appearances. Either way, it doesn’t seem like an intentional mislead, simply slightly confusing choice of words or a misunderstanding of the pr jargon.

    You boys should stop fighting and make up. I am personally thrilled at the idea that Gregory Harrison might show up at the screening as I am really looking forward to that doc and it’d be really excited to meet him.

  7. john says:

    Wow Carl Reiner…I thought you were dead.

  8. Carl Reiner says:

    Mr. Wildman why don’t you just admit that your press release was misleading and apologize to Mr. Harrison instead of telling him and the other reader that it’s THEIR fault for not understanding YOUR definition of the word “appearance?” Do you have a personality disorder that prevents you from admitting you were wrong you little putz? What’s so feel good about insulting an accomplished celebrity and any number of readers of this website? I’m going to ask that question to this site’s owner and recommend that this be your last appearance here. Good day.

  9. John Wildman says:

    Gregory –

    While, honestly, it would be great if you came to the festival, you missed the point of the column, just as you were originally mistaken by what was said in the press release. The press release never said that you or anyone else was coming.

    Trust me, since I do the PR for several film festivals and events, you state emphatically that “so-and-so is confirmed to attend” if that indeed, is the case. Honestly, I don’t event list suspect people (that we really can’t confirm) on the media alerts and tip sheets we send out to press and media because I jealously guard my integrity as far as that is concerned. I don’t do the bait-and-switch thing. I just don’t.

    Anyway, as I addressed with Jason’s comment, I could understand in the film listing section at the end of the press release that someone could mistake the language of “appearances” (meaning the interview subjects that appear in the film) for the documentaries versus “cast” (meaning people who are acting in those films) for narrative films., but I still think it’s more than a little stretch.

    And I think I was also pretty clear that I understood where you were coming from in sending the email (having dealt first hand with this stuff on your side so-to-speak), I just thought that beyond the misunderstanding (since again, the press release doesn’t say whether you or anyone else is confirmed to appear) it was somewhat of an overreaction. So – yes – I had a little fun with it AND you while pulling the curtain back a bit on what happens behind the scenes.

    Of course, no one thinks you’re a jerk. We thought the misunderstanding was funny. If anything, the staff at FGFF were excited to know that the word was getting out there and we would find ourselves on your radar.

    Again, it would be a thrill for everyone involved to give you a big welcome on the Feel Good Film Fest’s Yellow Carpet. I hope you are seriously considering coming. You WOULD have fun.



  10. Gregory Harrison says:

    Hey. Just read this and find it funny that you took such offense to my request. You’ve rationalized pretty convincingly why it’s OK to falsly advertise people coming to your festival. Because it’s a “feel good” event I’m a jerk for expecting you to adhere to the accepted rules of the road? Interesting perspective. Anyway, I was just trying to keep things on the up and up…privately. Who knew that you’d decide to make such a public issue of my email? Hope you feel better.
    Oh…and I may very well come to the GIDGET screening, since I got invited by the filmmaker…yesterday…a week after you announced my participation. Sounds fun.

  11. John Wildman says:

    Jason –

    Interesting… The “appearances” you are referring to is at the bottom of the press release where all the films are listed. For a narrative film, you have cast listings and for a documentary film you have notable people who “appear” in the film listed.

    But you are right, if someone is not savvy to this or not paying attention or just hoping against hope that a star might be coming, I could easily see that error or mistaken assumption being made.

    However, if you check again, you’ll see that “appearances” also follows the listing for I AM COMIC. So, it is definitely consistent.

  12. Jason says:

    In the original post announcing your line-up it says under ACCIDENTAL ICON, Appearances: Gregory Harrison. So I think the misunderstanding came from that and not from the paragraph you quoted. It doesn’t appear that you used that verbiage with any of the other films, and I, too, would have assumed it meant he was going to be there.

  13. Windy Rossi says:

    Wow, I would think he would want to come. Where has he been lately? Seems like an opportnity for some good press. But, like you have made it clear, Gregory Harrison will not be there!

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