In the crowded media landscape, it's not easy to create buzz for a new film. It takes years of careful positioning, delicate marketing skills, a well-cultivated grassroots network...Or you can just buy a bunch of bloggers trips to London.
The cinematic blogosphere has been resounding today with calls of "What ho!" and "Top o' the morning, govn'r!" since a fair number of America's leading film bloggers have boarded planes courtesy of 20th Century Fox for Jolly Olde England to attend the premiere of The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
This morning, The Fantastically Cranky Mr. Jeffrey Wells gave us a glimpse into the hard-scrabble life of a junketeer with this peek inside the asylum that makes it sound not unlike a posting in Saigon circa 1969:
Arrived at Heathrow this morning at 7:40 am, bought an Oyster card, took the Underground to Hyde Park station and registered at the Dorchester by 10:30 am or so. (Things always take longer than you expect.) I then ordered a pricey breakfast in the salon, sharing a table with the Boston Herald's Stephen Schaefer, also here for the Fantastic Mr. Fox junket. I got about 90 minutes sleep on the plane, at most, and am consequently too fried to write anything. So the best I can do for now is simply post photos.
Later Wells blogged from the home of Roald Dahl, where the junketeers had been dragooned, earning their inter-continental transit with a forced visit (and presumed blog entries to follow) to the historic home of Mr. Fox's author. After posting pictures of the Mr. Fox merch-littered estate, Wells signed off with what seemed a slightly desperate cry for help from one trapped on a promotional bandwagon, saying of his schedule ahead, "Nothing of any substance until this evening, and even then..."
The forced frog-marching however, does not prevent Wells from giving Anderson a chance to respond to Sunday's Los Angeles Times piece in which the Mr. Fox crew filed some eye-raising complaints about the boy genius, including his propensity for staying in a separate country from his movie set. After opening his video interview with a bold compliment of Anderson's footwear, Wells puts it to Anderson of the gripers quoted in the piece, "When you're going to do a film somebody's way, you're obviously going to adhering to a very particular thing and that's all there is to it." (Anderson responded agreeing that one crew member in particular had said "a bunch of things that were a bit outrageous for someone to say about their boss.")
Elsewhere on the junket, things were a bit more serene. At firstshowing.net, blogger Alex Billington advertised a planned an escape for the PR-imprisoned bloggers to the freedom of a genuine, unmonitored pub.
Over at The Hot Blog, David Poland conducts a forthright soul-searching inspired by his own London voyage and a recent fracas sparked by the Tahitian Couples Retreat junket a few of his internet colleagues suffered through. After declaring his own fairly modest annual junketing schedule, Poland points out the conundrum facing entertainment reporters in what passes for the entertainment press today, noting that for many reporters, their jobs are dependent upon serving up a constant stream of timely celebrity interviews and reporting on upcoming films, the sort of interviews and reporting that can only be gotten in conjunction with the PR campaigns for movies and are thus only available on official trips or set visits.
For all but those few working for the dwindling number of publications with a travel budget, the thought of getting your employer to cover your trip to Tahiti is absurd. But nonetheless, that same employer will expect their reporters to provide them with the interview with Vince Vaughn that can only be had in Tahiti. So what's a poor schlub to do but swallow his doubts, and go to Tahiti.
To those who would argue that accepting junkets compromises the ability of a reporter to write critically of a film in production, Poland argues that horse has long since left the barn. The idea that a reporter from Entertainment Tonight or the NY Times would visit a set and come back with a less than approving story is as outdated a concept as a printing press itself. In fact, what was so startling about the LA Times' Mr. Fox story was how rare it was. When was the last time a story in a major paper, magazine, anywhere visited the set of a film and delivered a single remotely critical word? Farther back then we can remember, that is for sure...