Six things you thought you knew about entertainment journalism (but didn't)
We're in the midst of Awards Season! With talk of the Grammys dying down, now we're looking toward Hollywood's biggest night- The Oscars- in just a few weeks. Come awards season, some entertainment journalists go from writing 'tail-enders' to breaking headline news. It can be a daunting task even for the seasoned pro.
Here are a few suggestions on how to get the story even if you think you can't.
1. Location. Location. Location. When granted access to the red carpet, try to position yourself near a bigger media outlet. That way you'll always be able to “eavesdrop” their soundbites if you can't manage to get any of your own. It sounds sneaky, but it's really quite legal. By the way, red carpets aren't always red. In fact, most of the time they're magenta. It's something to do with chrominance. Real red tends to “bleed” on camera. I know this because I have spent many hours staring at my (very) red pedicured toenails on such a carpet waiting for something to happen.
2. Give your viewers/readers a look behind-the-scenes. Apply for a day pass which gives you access to the red carpet up until 11 a.m. on the day of the awards show. This allows you a real behind-the-scenes look at how the event is put together. The build-up often makes for more of a story that the actual event. You're also given the opportunity to interview chefs, designers and crew, most of whom have worked on the event for many years. Fun fact: the theatre that hosts the Academy Awards is actually in a shopping mall. The shops are covered with red and gold fabric on Oscar Day. It's like the building itself actually gets dressed up once a year. It's both impressive and a let-down at the same time.
3. So you've got an A-list Junket. Now what? Try not to bring notes (or your iPad) into a junket situation. With so little time, it's best to have a conversation rather than a question-and-answer style interview. Use the answer to their first question as a “springboard” for the next one and so on. Stars tend to relax more when they know they're not being interrogated. Tip: Stars generally won't be interviewed unless they are selling or promoting something–and even then–they're often doing one-on-ones under duress. You can get anything from five to 10 minutes with an A-lister in a junket situation. Although, I was once allocated three minutes and 15 seconds just to keep me on my toes.
4. Get A two-shot. It's completely not okay to ask for photographs and autographs when conducting an interview. Rather, get the camera person and or photographer you may be working with to get a shot of you interviewing your A-lister. Not only will you have your own souvenir–if you use it as part of your piece, it helps personalize your story so it becomes more relatable to your audience. Interestingly, you'll probably be surprised by the amount of journalists who do actually ask for photographs and autographs when in a press conference type situation. You may even feel left out for being quite so professional. Stick to your principals–you'll be rewarded for it eventually with a VIP invite to an after-party.
5. Don't be afraid to “door stop.” Running up to a famous person on the street and shouting questions at them may not seem like a good idea–but occasionally it does actually work. I find its always best to chose the location they're going to rather than the one they're coming from i.e instead of staking out the airport–head for the hotel. Important tip: know when NOT to door-stop. When you're allocated a spot at a high profile event–it's best not to break the rules, especially if you want to be invited back next year.
6. Create your own smoke and mirrors. Dress the part. Just like the entertainment industry itself–its hard to tell the fakers from the genuine article on the press line. It's easy to be intimidated by the journalists working around you – just remember, you have as much right to be there as everyone else. Don't lose sight of the fact that whoever you work for, you are a cog in a very well-oiled publicity machine. Accept it. Go with it. These stories will happen with or without you. But, aside from the story you file–there's often an even more entertaining version to tell your friends.
Nicky Greenwall is an entertainment reporter, chat-show host, writer and producer. She is the dedicated entertainment correspondent for South African 24-hour news channel eNCA. Her print work has been featured in The Sunday Times, Glamour, Men's Health, Seventeen, Good Taste, Elle and Marie Claire. She is the host/ writer/producer of The Showbiz Report, The Close Up, The Big Picture and the celebrity talk-show ScreenTime With Nicky Greenwall which are all broadcast on eNCA and free-to-air channel etv.
Photo: Red carpet via Shutterstock