Thursday, August 16, 2007

Publicists: Lost in (the Time-)Space (Continuum)

I've been writing a regular column for a major metro daily's home section for a year or so now, where I spy dazzling furnishings and decor on TV and in movies.

Take designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohes' classic 1930 Barcelona couch, right, for example—that's the kind of thing I'm writing about. It appears in Daniel's office on Ugly Betty, and in the upcoming Jake Paltrow movie, The Good Night, above, starring sister Gwyneth, Penelope Cruz and Danny DeVito. It's a great gig. I get to scout movies for fine and fun design and talk to production personnel, most of whom are well-schooled in design, about why the item works on set, how it adds to character and dimension and story.

I love it, except for ... the publicists, at least the vast majority of them. It's amazingly difficult for them to come through, by and large. Let me repeat: amazingly difficult. Like, for instance, taking two months to round up a photo. Or doing a run-around for three months, then coming up empty handed -- can't muster a single quote from anyone (even themselves).

Some dreadful cases in point:

Ugly Betty: Calls about the Barcelona couch went unanswered in winter and spring, but since journalism is like watching crops grow, it was July before anything happened, like a response. Weeks later, in August, a quote appeared — about the wrong couch — but sorry, no set shot. Another publicist graciously helped sort everything out quickly, and got me a quote from the (amazing) production designer about the right couch, all in one day. See how quick it can be? Like watering a chia pet.

Colbert Report: After seven weeks of emails and I'm-checking-on-it phone calls over the black Eames chair used for guests on set, she says: "I don't think this is going to work out." Like after seven weeks, we were breaking up. Maybe she's just not that into the press. (Um, nation? Why do you hate your country's fourth estate so much?)

Because I Said So: Two weeks of calls and emails about a lovely silk chaise resulted in the company hired for publicity saying "We’ve exhausted all our contacts for the film, no one is being responsive. I apologize for the inconvenience." So it comes down to this bureaucratic irony: The company hired for publicity cannot locate its publicist.

There are plenty of sweet, responsive, snappy publicists out there too, so here's a shout out to the folks working on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Traveler, The Rachael Ray Show, Top Design, Nanny Diaries and 23. Hollywood kisses to all of you.

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