Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

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  • Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

    This is a thread that's not really on the topic of a writer's career, its just something I was curious about, but there isn't an off topic forum so I'm posting it here.

    I'm curious as to why actors hire publicists and what precisely do publicists do?

    From what I understand they are there to tell an actor what sort of a public image to present and what interviews to do and what not to do.

    This to me seems completely unnecessary. If you're an actor and you have been following the business for a few years and have seen people become stars and how they did it and what sort of a public perception was created through choices of roles and how they presented themselves in interviews and so forth, basically if you've been paying attention to showbusiness and paying maybe closer attention to film and actors, this is a job that any person with any sense oughtta be able to do for themselves, no?

    And on a side note, I remember hearing someone talk once in an itnerview about the importance of publicity for writers, do any writers hire publicists?

  • #2
    Re: Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

    A publicist has a set of relationships that can facilitate getting articles written about someone.

    It's not about how to get them to behave in public. It's about getting somebody to write that fluff piece article. It's about getting Us Weekly to include a picture of your star with her fiancee on vacation.

    Look at Paris Hilton. Nobody really knew who she was. Then her sex tape leaks. All of a sudden she's not some vaguely famous socialite, but rather she is someone who everyone knows. This leads to her being able to sell branded merchandise (I think she has a perfume) and, simply because she's famous, she starts getting cast. She's not cast in "House of Wax" because of her acting skill ... she's cast because she's a recognizable name and persona. Which she wasn't, before everybody was talking about her. It's the publicist's job to get everyone talking about you.

    (Not saying that Hilton released the sex tape for that reason, although I think several sex tapes that have been leaked since clearly were. It's just such a clear example of how fame can push your career forward).

    Ever read a magazine profile of a major actor? Sometimes those happen because a writer and an editor get together and say, "Hm, I think he's interesting, let's do that." But far, far more often, those articles happen because the actor's team says words to the effect of, "Our client, Jennifer Anniston, has had her thunder stolen by Brad and Angelina. They're seen as a hip, sexy couple, and she's being seen as the somewhat dowdy cast-off. That's killing her ability to get cast as a sexy leading lady. Lets get some photos of her looking fun and hot in the gossip rags, and maybe get one of them to do a more serious profile of her where she can talk about how fun and sexy and vibrant she is."

    The publicist is the one who makes that happen.

    Will Smith didn't become Will Smith just by being a successful actor. He was on a sitcom, yeah, and he made smart movie choices. But during that time when he was establishing his brand, I'm willing to bet you can find DOZENS of magazine articles, event appearances, etc, which were all designed to send the message, "Will Smith is hip, cool, smart, and a surprisingly good actor." All of that was in support of the public persona he was creating.

    That way, when people were considering who to cast in "Independence Day," the producers said, "We want somebody who the audience sees as hip, cool, and smart ... Will Smith rates high in those areas! Let's cast him!"

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    • #3
      Re: Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

      Having some experience in doing media training for execs, I think it would behoove some actors to work with their publicist before going on these talk shows to make a better impression of themselves. Seems like a wasted opportunity for some of them.

      Or maybe I don't know enough about the business and the actors don't care about that kind of stuff.

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      • #4
        Re: Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

        In addition to the charm offensives listed above, publicists are often called upon to play defense.

        Believe it or not, the skillset of being charismatic and likeable when you're playing the bad-boy cop karate-kicking werewolves to rescue Megan Fox doesn't always translate to the skillset of being able to charismatically explain yourself when you make a bunch of flatfooted racist jokes on The Tonight Show, or are arrested in a motel room with a dead woman or a live boy. That is why when one of these things happens, you'll read things like "Mr. Bieber, through his publicist, released a statement apologizing for XYZ".

        As far as writers, although he's an obvious outlier, I understand Dan Harmon recently hired one after digging himself one hole too many in his unfiltered commentary about his former employers and coworkers. On his podcast, he joked that he was probably the first person to hire a publicist to make him less famous.

        Generally, the only writers who need publicists are the super-duper-heavy-hitters, usually novelists rather than screenwriters. I'd bet Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, or Stephanie Meyer have them, but if you're not someone with a big public profile outside the industry itself, probably not.
        Last edited by Staircaseghost; 10-03-2014, 04:04 PM.

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        • #5
          Re: Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

          Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
          Having some experience in doing media training for execs, I think it would behoove some actors to work with their publicist before going on these talk shows to make a better impression of themselves. Seems like a wasted opportunity for some of them.

          Or maybe I don't know enough about the business and the actors don't care about that kind of stuff.
          I have a very close friend who is one the stars of a very (very) big TV show right now. He told me he's actually taken talk show guest classes with PR people because he wasn't used to doing that. And believe me, actors care how they come across, even when it looks like they don't.... oh and he did an amazing job on Kimmel when he was there....

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          • #6
            Re: Publicist - why do actors need them? (off topic)

            Also, a lot of indie films pick up publicists. The idea is to drum up some interest and help get the films some heat that gets them picked up at a major festival.

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