Sunday, May 4, 2008

Iron Man Press Junket

Iron Man Press Junket

Last year I worked on four press junkets as a cameraman. In the past years I have been a cameraman in the rooms of Renee Zellweger for Bee Movie, Aaron Eckhart for No Reservations, Erin Gruwell for Freedom Writers, Emmy Rossum for The Phantom of the Opera, Jeremy Davies for Rescue Dawn.
[I also stalked Beyonce. I was on another press junket, but hung out at the Dreamgirls junket to see her. But that’s another story for another blog.]

[Movie Junket - a by-invitation event where members of the media see an exclusive preview of a film, and meet with and interview its stars and other key personnel.]

This year I just worked on the Iron Man press junket. I was the B Camerman in Robert Downey, Jr.’s room.

Here is how the press junkets usually work:

The press junkets that I have worked on are taped in New York City. They are usually in a fancy midtown hotel. The Iron Man junket was at the Waldorf Astoria.

Sometimes if there is more than one movie at the junket, we will take over a few floors of the hotel. With junkets that are just for one movie, we will take over one floor. Each actor gets his/her own room and there is usually a room for the director.

There will usually be around 5 rooms with actors and one room with the director. Then there is a control room where each room is monitored and the directors can give instructions to the cameramen.

Each room has two cameras with operators. One camera faces towards the actor who sits in a black chair in front of a large graphic (or poster) from the movie. The other camera faces towards the revolving reporters. There is an audio person and a room producer. The room proucers are responsible for keeping the reporters at their time limit. They try to keep the action flowing, so the actors don’t get too burnt out and everyone scheduled gets an interview. Each interview is usually 5 minutes or less.

The interesting thing is that each reporter doesn’t bring in their own camera, audio and lights. They use our lights and equipment. So chances are no matter where you are in the country (or world), when you see an interview with an actor from a movie, the same camera person had shot the interview.

The cameramen have a large stack of blank 10 minute tapes. When the interview is over we hand the tapes to the room producer who labels them and gives them to a runner who takes them to the control room to be checked. This ensures that the cameras and microphones are working and the interview was taped correctly.

On a typical day we may cycle through around 70 interviewers from all of the country and all over the world. It gets tiring for the actors and crew who have to listen to the same questions over and over again.

So a couple of weeks ago I was on the Iron Man press junket. I met Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard and saw Jon Favreau in the hallway. I was in Robert Downey, Jr.’s room.

This junket started a little bit differently than most. Robert Downey, Jr. started at 11 AM a hour or so later than the other actors. When he came in, he seemed nice, but not really excited about doing the junket. He has just come from a European junket tour. He knew what he was in for on this day and was not really looking forward to it. After several interviews, he took a break and left the room. This usually doesn’t happen. The actors usually don’t take breaks just because there are so many interviews to do. After several more interviews, it was lunch time. After lunch he came in and did a few more and wanted a break again. He turned around to me, since I was over his right shoulder on camera, and asked me if I wanted some iced tea. I said sure. He said that after his break, we’ll have another break with iced tea and cookies. So after his break he did one or two more interviews and then we had iced tea and cookies. We all hung out in a circle and Robert “entertained” us. Then we went back to work.

One of the reporters was from the production company. She was asking questions for the film, so this interview will most likely be used in promotions and possibly be on the Iron Man DVD. She prepared Robert by telling him that she would be asking him a question about what an “essential” Robert Downey, Jr. DVD would be. He thought for a couple seconds and then I couldn’t resist… I whispered “Weird Science” to him. He thanked me and was ready for the interview. When it came to that question he started singing the Oingo Boingo song, “Weird Science.” Then he turned to me and said, “Thanks, Bro.” So if you ever see Robert Downey, Jr. sing “Weird Science” during an interview, I was there. And if you hear him say, “Thanks, Bro,” I’m the “Bro.”

The rest of the day Robert was downing these Chinese supplements and vitamins and itching to get out of there. It didn’t help that Terrence Howard came into the room during an interview and bragged that he took a short lunch and sped through his interviews and was done for the day.

All hell broke loose when one reporter came in that wasn’t a typical entertainment reporter. He started out asking about part of the movie that is based in Afghanistan. Robert answered something like they were trying to put a little realism into the movie since Tony Stark (Iron Man) owns a company that makes military equipment. After the second Afghanistan question, the control room asked the cameramen to notify the room producer to wrap up the interview. It got a little more tense since every subsequent question was about Afghanistan and not really the movie. Robert Downey, Jr. was always cordial explaining that his politics had nothing to do with the movie, he didn’t write the movie, and it’s based on a comic book. The reporter got very offensive and got even angrier when we were instructed by the control room to turn the cameras off. There was a shouting match between Robert and the reporter that continued even after the reporter left the room. I doubt this footage will ever be seen. I’m pretty sure the production company kept the tapes.

Needless to say, we did one more interview after Robert calmed down and then we were informed that we needed to wait ten minutes for the next interview. Robert left the room and never came back.

When we started wrapping up, a bunch of the other crew told me that I should have been running my own camera to get the argument on tape. I could have sold it to TMZ. But then I would never get hired from the press junket production company again.

I have to say that this was the most interesting press junket that I have done. Iced tea and cookies, screaming matches, Chinese herbs, and far fewer interviews than normal.

Let me know if you see Robert Downey, Jr. singing Weird Science anywhere.

Here are a few shots from previous press junkets and one from Tim Dangler's cell phone camera on the streets of New York after the Iron Man press junket. [Tim Dangler was a camerman in Jeff Bridge's room.]
Also the Bee Movie poster is hanging in my daughter's room now.

Also here is a YouTube video of one of the interviews from the day. I was operating the camera of the interviewer from over Robert Downey, Jr.'s shoulder:

And here is an interview that I shot at the press junket for Bee Movie. I was operating the interviewers camera over Renee Zellweger's shoulder.


Pat May 5, 2008 at 5:43 AM  

Wow! Living the dream. Glad to see Downey back on his feet, and you giving him a helping hand. Keep up the great background bloging. Very interesting, and as for the TMZ trash?...keep your day job.
Pat V

Emily May 5, 2008 at 9:25 AM  

You are too cool.

Chris' Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    About This Blog

    Christopher Elston is a Portrait & Lifestyle photographer who captures relaxed portraits. Chris is based in Emmaus, Pa. He is available for travel across the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) and around the world.

    Search This Blog

    CEP Facebook Fanpage

      © Free Blogger Templates 'Photoblog II' by 2008

    Back to TOP