Guest blogger John August on publicity shots
This is the second in a series of guest-blog posts by writer/director John August, in which he explains how movie promotional campaigns work via the example of his upcoming release, The Nines.
This morning, I drank my coffee, ate a hard-boiled egg, and had mypicture taken for the New York Times.
What they don’t teach you in film school is that if you ever actuallydirect a movie (like The Nines, August 31st), there’s a stronglikelihood that you’ll have to get your photo taken. A lot. Itdoesn’t matter that you are not classically photogenic. They’ll wanta photo to run next to that profile piece, and they’re not willing tosimply re-run the one photo of yourself you kind of like. (The oneyou see next to this column.)
The photographer showed up at 7:30. This early hour was dictated bymy schedule, which was clogged with meetings, lunches, and conferencecalls where plans could be set to take my photo for yet another mediaoutlet. For the New York Times, the plan was to shoot at my house —which was convenient for me, because I live here.
I also shot a large portion of The Nines at my house. (Again,convenient.) The New York Times liked the meta-aspect of shooting mein situ, and thus I was able to avoid putting on shoes forthe whole process.
There was one aspect of letting a photographer into my house that Ihadn’t considered: my daughter. She’s two, and from the time she wasborn, every camera lens has been aimed in her direction. So it wasunderstandably bewildering to her that someone would care to take apicture of Papa. When she could no longer be held at bay, I broughther up into my lap to play some piano. I heard the shutter clicking,and realized, “Oh, crap.”
I suddenly had to decide whether my daughter was part of the JohnAugust media package.
[John’s decision, after the jump…]
When you see magazine photo shoots about celebrity parents, the kidsare often turned away from camera, playing in the background. Youmight think it’s because they’re shy. No. They’re obscured so thatthere’s still some veil of privacy. On its darkest level, it’s sothey won’t get kidnapped.
Click, click, click.
I also thought about the story the New York Times would be running.
It focuses one of the three sections of The Nines, based upon myexperience as a TV showrunner, and the slow-motion nervous breakdownI had. My daughter figures nowhere in that tale. So it would be astrange picture to run.
What’s more, I’ve sort of set a rule about not mentioning my daughterby name in the press, so what would the photo caption read? “JohnAugust plays piano with his unnamed daughter.”
(Of course, if the story were about gay parenting, I might havedifferent rules. I’d probably be willing to sacrifice a bit ofprivacy for the good of the cause.)
Click, click, click.
And then I said, “You know, actually, I don’t want her in any ofthese photos.” The photographer didn’t protest, though I could sensehe knew that the pretty blonde cherub was the best thing about thephotos he’d taken so far.
In truth, I don’t harbor great fears that some psychopath wouldneatly clip the photo of my daughter from the Times and tack it tohis wall. But I’m protective. And honestly, selfish. I want photosof my daughter in my iPhone, not strangers’ inky hands. If one dayher photo appears in the New York Times, I’d love for it be throughher own merit. You know, when she cures cancer and negotiates animpossible peace treaty.
Meanwhile, I’m just a guy who directed a movie. They’re scheduling aphoto shoot for the L.A. Times, which won’t be at the house. Which willmean I have to wear shoes. Damn.