Press junkets easier when you like the film, say TIFF stars
Actor Seth Rogen talks during a press conference promoting his new film "50/50" at the TIFF Lightbox during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Saturday, September 17, 2011 8:09AM EDT
As the Toronto International Film Festival winds down this weekend, so too does the less-than-glamorous frenzy that takes place in downtown hotel suites during the annual cinema spectacle.
That's where stars, publicists and journalists hustle at what's known in the industry as "press junkets," when stars and directors come together for rapid-fire rounds of interviews and video and photo shoots -- all crammed into a certain window of time.
Junkets, which happen for most films outside festivals as well, cover many promotional bases all in one shot.
They're also forums where stars and filmmakers will inevitably face the same questions over and over, or possibly field odd or inappropriate inquiries about their personal lives, for hours on end.
Some stars at this year's TIFF faced more than one junket to promote their multiple films, while others were on their second or third junket for projects that had already been in other film fests.
"It helps when you like the film you're talking about," British actress Emily Blunt said during a junket interview for "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" at the fest. "It helps when you've had a really good experience on it, and it's nice because I feel like sometimes people come in and you have a lovely interview and they're really nice and it feels like you're just chatting.
"Other times it feels like you're being harassed a bit about personal stuff, where it's sort of an excuse to get personal fodder and that is a bit annoying ... like it's just opportunistic," continued Blunt, who was also promoting "Your Sister's Sister" at the fest.
"I'd rather just talk about the work. I have no desire to talk about how I met my husband (actor John Krasinski) and blah, blah, blah. That's for us to know, that's for my friends to know."
The scene of a junket is reminiscent of an ant colony, with a continuous stream of celebrities, industry types and hotel staff charging through hallways and rooms with bulky equipment and carts of food for guests.
Due to time constraints, the stars sometimes have to pick at their dishes in between -- or even during -- interviews.
"(Junkets are) less fun than you'd think, but each individual one's different," Emmy-winning comedian Sarah Silverman said in a junket interview to promote "Take This Waltz" at the fest.
"I always go into a junket going: 'I don't have anything to say,' and then by the end each person is like, 'We ran out of time,' and I'm like, 'Oh, sorry."'
Indeed, time is of the essence at junkets as publicists clock the length of each interview, sometimes using a stopwatch, and cut the conversation between journalist and talent off when their allotted window closes.
Sometimes the interview length can be as short as just a few minutes, leaving little room to develop a meaningful conversation.
"It's harder when they're very fast because you have to get into it to think about different aspects, but I think you owe it to the reporter to try and find something new to say," said director Mary Harron, who was at the fest with "The Moth Diaries."
"I try and find, in what I'm saying, a new way to look at it every time if I can. ... That's the challenge."
For rising Australian star Mia Wasikowska, the challenge is making sure her words aren't misunderstood or misconstrued.
"The scariest thing about press is, that's where the lack of control is in terms of you say things and, I don't know, you say it the wrong way or it comes out the wrong way," the 21-year-old said during a brief stop at the fest to promote "Restless."
Canadian comedy charmer Seth Rogen, who was in "Take This Waltz" and "50/50" at the fest, said junkets are easier when they're for a film in which the cast and crew are also friends.
"Sometimes you can do interviews with your friends and it makes the whole experience much easier and takes some of the pressure off."
Canadian star Scott Speedman admits that sometimes the problem with junkets is that they take place long after shooting has wrapped on the film and it's easy to forget certain elements surrounding the project.
"Sometimes I'll even get the script and go through it again just to make sure I have everything down," the Toronto-raised actor said in a junket interview for "Edwin Boyd" at the fest.
"What happens is the first couple interviews of the day, or for me anyway, usually are absolutely terrible, awkward and terrible, and then you get warmed up and you start just being a little looser with things."
In the grand scheme of things, though, junkets really aren't that bad, he added.
"I think the stock answer is that they're terrible and they're the hardest thing in the world and it is exhausting in a certain kind of weird way. But I mean, there are far worse things to be doing, and if it's a movie that you at all feel strongly about, it's totally part of it.
"And for small movies like this, it's the way to get the word out and it's really the only way to promote it."
The Toronto film fest wraps Sunday.
-- With files from Canadian Press reporters Andrea Baillie and Cassandra Szklarski