The rules are a little different when you're researching an article on the set of a television or movie production. You don't have the luxuries afforded during pre-arranged telephone interviews or in-person interviews where you can sit down and leisurely talk over cups of coffee. When you're lucky enough to visit a set for an interview, try these suggestions for staying out of trouble, making friends with the unit publicist, and getting a great story.
1. Immediately upon arrival, meet with the unit publicist or director of publicity. Ask for the production schedule, background information, bio sheets, and photographs of the people you'll be interviewing. Find out if other people will be available for interviews and, if you're also a photographer, what photo restrictions they may have on the set.
2. Don't expect the publicist to arrange lengthy interviews with the "stars." In general, celebrities work on tight schedules, are eager to get the work finished and fly back home to their families, prefer to talk to representatives from major publications, and don't necessarily give better interviews than the lesser known actors or the people behind the scenes.
3. Use the publicist's information for background, but get quotations from other sources. Interview privately, away from the publicist, crew members, and other journalists, if possible.
4. Bring a note pad and tape recorder. Relying solely on a tape recorder is dangerous while on a television or movie set. There are many distractions such as background noises, playbacks, and music. Interviews may consist entirely of whispers between takes.
5. Be flexible. Plan to have constant interruptions and hours of waiting between interviews. Be prepared to set up your interview at a moment's notice at a desk, on the set, or sitting on the floor in a dark corner. Also be on the lookout for stories you didn't plan.
6. Don't be a fan or a friend to a celebrity (or semi-celebrity) -- be a professional. Never ask for home phone numbers or addresses; go through the publicist. (However, if stars offer their personal cards, grab them fast before they change their minds.) Rather than provide a gushing endorsement of a star's work, a simple statement of appreciation is much more appropriate. If you put him on a pedestal, you won't be on equal footing throughout the interview.
7. Obey the basic production rules: Don't enter or exit when a light is on over the door; don't say a word when you hear "Quiet on the set!" and NEVER sit in a chair that has someone's name or title written on it (especially "Director").
8. Follow-up with a thank you note or telephone call to the publicist, and be sure to send a tear sheet (copy of the published article).
Copyright 2006 Leslie Halpern
Central Florida-based entertainment writer Leslie Halpern has interviewed more than one hundred celebrities during her career. She is the author of Dreams on Film. The Cinematic Struggle Between Art and Science (McFarland & Company), a book that analyzes representations of sleeping and dreaming in the movies. She also wrote Reel Romance. The Lovers Guide to the 100 Best Date Movies (Taylor Trade Publishing), a book that reviews date movies for couples, and suggests romantic ideas inspired by these films. Her articles have appeared in hundreds of entertainment trade and consumer magazines. Visit Leslie's website at http://home.cfl.rr.com/lesliehalpern/leslie_halpern.htm