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:
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.
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!