Last week, while running the Red Carpet entrances at the New York Film Festival, I was approached by someone I would describe as a “carpetbagger.”
Now, when I say I was running the Red Carpet, what that means, is that I’m the person at the beginning of the carpet that receives the stars and filmmakers and celebrities and their personal handlers and then clears us path for them to start having their pictures taken and talk to the people from Entertainment Tonight or Access or People Magazine or any number of journalists. And, sometimes, it means that I am receiving filmmakers and stars that don’t have a personal publicist or representative and then I am assigning someone from the film festival or a volunteer that I have trained to escort them down the press line.
Basically, it can become a situation that is very chaotic and confusing because, let’s face it – you have famous people that are going to be there and you have a lot of people with cameras trying to take pictures of them and it can all be very exciting, so naturally EVERYONE wants to congregate in that one are to see what’s going on.
So, someone needs to keep it organized and make sure that movie stars AND the press are taken care of, so everyone can get what they need out of the experience.
So – back to the carpetbagger. There I am, working the Red Carpet for the New York Film Festival Centerpiece Screening of Julie Taymor’s THE TEMPEST, with Taymor, Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, etc. showing up to support the film when a notorious carpetbagger from Los Angeles walks up with a pretty woman in tow expecting to walk the carpet. Unfortunately, I’m there.
Carpetbagger: “You’re here too?!”
Me: “Yeah, I’m here too. And, I’m sorry, but I can’t put you on the carpet.”
Carpetbagger: “Are you sure? I flew out here for this.”
Me: “I’m sure. Sorry you did that.”
Carpetbagger: “But I’m working on this show and we’re seeing the movie tonight.”
Me: “Great. Enjoy the film.”
Carpetbagger: “What about my date? Can she walk? She’s a beauty queen from India.”
Me: “Yes, she’s very pretty. But, no.”
Carpetbagger: “How long will you be here in New York?”
Me: “I’m doing all the red carpets.”
Basically, that was the conversation. Some paraphrasing in there. I think I tried to soften the blow…a…little…but that was pretty much the gist of it. Two days later, the guy sends me an email asking to get together for a lunch so he “can make it right” between us. Of course, there isn’t anything to make right. This guy either just doesn’t get it or he is doing his very very best to figure out a way to grease his way in.
And there are A LOT of him (and lot of her, too). Carpetbaggers desperately want that moment on the red carpet where the photographers are all taking their picture and then TV crews and journalists are interviewing them and asking them questions.
And, this is where you rightly ask, “Why?”
Well, there are a few reasons. One, because it’s exciting and obviously addicting. For a brief shining moment you literally are a movie star or rock star or uhmm… star. Everyone is paying attention to you and making a big deal about you. So there is that. There is a woman in L.A. that is the daughter of a deceased famous director. And this woman, sometimes with her mother, is notorious for coming to every single movie premiere so she can walk the red carpet. She is always dressed and done up old-school glam Hollywood style and she has the poses and the routine down and ALL of the photographers know her and put up with her because it’s just become part of the routine. And she’ll go on and on about this film she’s doing or that project she’s working on and you’ve never heard of one and you’ll never see the other. But like moth to flame, roll out the red carpet and soon she’ll appear.
Others claim it helps their IMDB rating somehow. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but I believe that if someone’s picture is out up enough times on syndicated photo agency sites or posted somewhere then their IMDB popularity rating increases. And that is a really big deal, if you happen to be that person that measures their value by the IMDB meter.
I have also heard that some women can make money by getting paid by clothing designers to wear their clothes and get them photographed on the red carpet. Again, no proof of this – but I could easily see that happening. And then there are disreputable “publicists” and promoters that will take money from these fame-seeking parakeets to get them on the red carpet – ANY red carpet.
Why should I care?
Well, other than the general irritation of that behavior, there is a very good reason that I personally care. I’ve actually written about this before, and I will repeat what I’ve said in the past:
With most things I do there is somewhat of a code in how these things are run and how I think people should behave on both sides of the velvet rope.
And, it’s simple. It’s just about being fair and accommodating and showing respect for each other. Really. Nothing more complicated than that. I try to give the press as much access as I can (and is reasonable) and I trust that if I do that, then they will give as equal play (again, as I can reasonably expect) to the filmmakers and actors and actresses, etc. that I put on that red carpet.
It’s a little dance and negotiation that basically says if I give the photographers and video crews, etc. the chance to take pictures and interview the big movie stars that make their trip out there worth it, then they will also take photos and give the time of day to the first time filmmakers and up-and-coming talent that I put before them.
And I am careful about who I let walk on that carpet. Very careful. I have to be because I want there to be a sense of security and relief for both sides when they see that I am at the front of that thing, running that show.
And that’s why I hate the carpetbaggers.
Again, carpetbaggers aren’t the celebrities that come out (as they say) to the opening of an envelope. I have no beef with those folks. Because more often than not, there is at least a reason why people still take their photos and let them talk into a microphone at these events. No, carpetbaggers are worse because they really, really, really have no reason to be there.
These are people that at best were supposedly an extra in something that was part of GRINDHOUSE or made a movie that posted on IMDB before it went Direct-to-Their Parent’s-Video-Cabinet, or worst have to be paraded in front of the photogs with identifying name plates that can’t even state a credit beyond “actress” or “recording artist” on it.
It’s gross, sleazy, and…gross.
Now, let’s take a quick step back to clarify my feelings on walking the red carpet. It could seem as though I have a bit of a double standard since I always put shorts directors side-by-side with the movie stars and more notable filmmakers at my film festivals. Except…..those shorts directors not only made a film but it went through the screening process and made it into the film festival. Legit. Capital “L” on that.
And that’s why this really bugs the crap out of me.
I am already working a precarious balance by coercing the press (and the stardust in their editors’ and photo editors’ eyes) to give those shorts and first time filmmakers their rightful moment in the press’ sun. So – when some little aspiring reality hootchie-actress or Ed Hardy reject wanna-tough boy actor-guy shoehorns their way to the front of flash bulb land so they can document their ‘tude – that more than chips away at the unspoken agreement I have with the press not to waste their time.
End of previously written explanation.
But today is a new day, so I’m going to add some helpful advice to the aspiring carpetbaggers out there:
- When emailing your request to be allowed on the red carpet, pretend to be another person. Send the email as if you are the publicist or manager or agent. But don’t bother using another email address or even another name because it’s completely feasible that your rep would have the same exact name as you. That wouldn’t be weird at all.
- Show up with a publicist that I’ve never heard of – in fact, if the word “publicist” has never heard of them, even better. And then if that person can launch themselves in front of the photographers holding a sheet of copy paper with your name and something like (actress) or (singer/songwriter) underneath it, that will make the best impression. In fact, it will make such a good impression, I’ll likely not forget them, and be ready to give them and you a proper greeting the next time you show up.
- Claim you know Scorsese or worked with Tom Hanks or maybe, play skeeball with Clint Eastwood. Those guys want EVERYONE on the red carpets of their movies. Totally makes sense that no one would have ever mentioned you or the fact that you were coming or that we should have tickets for you or that your pants are on fire before you showed up in front of me at the red carpet.
- If you are a uhmmm…looks-challenged guy, bring the gorgeous, hot chick with you. Because who is going to turn down a chance at having the super hot model looking chick on the carpet, right? And, what goes better with a super model chick than a troll-like creepy dude talking about that existential drama about two souls trying find each other in an unforgiving world.
- If you’re a woman, then pretend the red carpet is a Hollywood Halloween party, where every costume is preceded by the words “sexy” and “slutty.” Seriously, if just for once, we could have some cleavage on the red carpet. If only, I could have some peek-a-boo hoo-ha fashion choices. I mean, you just can’t find boobies or a*s on display in L.A. or New York. If only we could find a single beautiful woman to wear a sexy, slutty dress on the red carpet then we could finish this damn thing, roll it up, put the lights away and go home.
Which frankly, is what you, the carpetbagger, should do. Go home already.