Thursday, April 23, 2009

Behind-the-scenes at two Red Carpets

The daughter of an old family friend has lived in LA for a few years and does some sort of office work at Paramount Pictures. I know, I know, you're wondering "why have you never talked about this before?" She and her brother are closer in age to my brothers and by the time I came along, we weren't neighbors anymore and bla, bla, bla... Getting a hold of her was something I'd been meaning to do, but never got around to because I'm phone phobic. She knew I was here and had been meaning to contact me too. I finally got her email and though we're having trouble finding a time to meet, she included me on an email inviting people to the premier of the new film The Soloist.

At first I just assumed it was an employee screening, like I go to at Universal; then she wrote, "I'll be running up and down the red carpet, so I probably won't see you." WHAT!?! RED CARPET!!

A friend and fellow Ohio native who was in the musical festival with me last year accompanied me to Paramount Pictures on Melrose in Hollywood. We drove through the huge archway without even showing ID and parked on the lot. I immediately noticed that Paramount is much prettier than Universal. It's like the difference between my Alma mater's campus, where the building are architecturally mismatched and generally unimpressive, to a campus with more uniform building, all with the charm of yesteryear.

We walked to a will-call table where I did show ID to get our passes. In front of a beautiful fountain and another grandiose archway leading to the sound stages, the red carpet started at the street and curved toward the Paramount Theatre. After getting our tickets my friend and I milled around the fountain for about ten minutes, waiting to see if anyone of note would come down the carpet. A few times the reporters perked up, but we didn't recognize the person.

Once inside the theatre's lobby we were surprised and thrilled to see beautiful grazing stations of hor 'devours and an open bar with wine and beer! Floating servers came around with bit sized tuna casseroles and fancy chicken on a stick.

Prior to moving here I had heard that LA was not friendly; I noticed that more during that pre-reception than I ever had before. People weren't making eye contact. When we found a spot to stand and eat our food at one of the tall tables, the people already there didn't acknowledge us. Others came and left the table, all staying within their two-person bubbles. It seemed odd to me. I wondered, were these all incredibly important people who had no need to mingle? Were these friends of friends of employees like me? I was finally able to start a conversation with a cute Asian girl after both our companions had left the table and we were awkwardly left standing, each alone.

When I asked how she was invited she pointed to the man who was with her and said, "he's a famous director." I've googled every incarnation of the name I think she said and can't figure out who he was. She disappeared, but my friend came back reporting that Neal McDonough (who plays Edie's crazy husband on Desperate Housewives) was at the bar. About ten minutes before the movie was to begin, the room became packed. Everywhere we looked, there were familiar faces, but outside of the context of a show or movie, we couldn't figure out who was a famous face.

At one point Rachael Harris stood a few feet from us, talking to a group of people. We knew for certain she was an actress, but in such a sea of potentially important people, we could not recall which show she'd been on. It's like trying to think of how a certain song goes, while another song is blaring in your ear! Now that I've looked up her credits, I feel like a moron! And, she was there because she has a small role in the film.

As I mentioned before, Tom Arnold walked right by me. He is easily recognizable; we made eye contact and exchanged a smile and nod. Unlike most people there, whose tension I couldn't make sense of, the millisecond I shared with him seemed genuine.

We eventually all funneled in to the large, beautiful theatre. Before the film began, director Joe Wright and two producers spoke. As the main characters appeared onscreen the audience applauded, the loudest of which was for Jamie Foxx. When the child actors appeared you could tell it was their family in the audience clapping for them; which was cute. I can't imagine how amazing they must have felt to be in a film of such caliber!

As we'd eaten the hor 'devours, I told my friend, "I can't believe I'm here!... Even if I were an extra, if I got to attend a premier like this for that film, I'd feel like I were the star!" Honestly, I felt guilty that I was there. I'm sure there were tons of crew members that had worked their asses off and day players (actors) who had painfully long hours on set for this film who were not there! Why was I?

Of course, that also made me so frustrated with myself that I had not gotten a hold of the family friend / Paramount employee a year ago! Although, she had alluded in our emails that most premiers are not that fancy.

The film was wonderful and I do recommend it. The story doesn't go as far as fiction would, or even really resolve itself in the way I expected, but it's a true story, and therefore had charm instead of a Hollywood ending.

As we left, we saw the female lead, Catherine Keener, but there was never any sight or mention of Jamie Foxx or Robert Downey Jr. They were photographed on the red carpet, as well as Halle Berry (who was not in the film); I have to imagine they came late and were ushered out early. (CLICK HERE to see celeb photos from the red carpet.)

I hesitated to walk across the lobby and out the doors; there was small clumps of people talking, but again, no one was recognizable. Of course I felt like I should talk to someone, I should figure out who’s who and make a great contact, I was in the same room with amazing, important people, I should do something! But what? My friend didn't seem particularly interested in waiting around. As we walked to the car she said, "if I knew more about the story, it would be different..." I know some of you will also think I should have been more aggressive in meeting people, but please trust me when I say, walking up to strangers, in hopes they're the important one, would have been awkward and inappropriate. Although there was an air of unfriendliness, there was also a feeling of professionalism. No one there acted like fans or tourists; we were members of a business community, celebrating the recent success of a company. Does that make sense?

I felt so fortunate to be there; the essence of that night is what the film industry is about, not all the all the smut you see on TV and at the check out line in the grocery! More than ever, it made me want to be a part of that creative community.

In less inspiring news, when I worked at Universal Saturday, a red carpet was being set up behind the Gibson amphitheater for the TV Land Awards. The hilarious part is, their red carpet was in our dirty tram parking lot! Between the Studio Tour Tram loading and unloading area and the greasy tram garage is a small parking lot. Usually old trams, a busted Delorean and an old mechanical shark from the Jaws animation sit in the lot. Saturday it also housed a half constructed red carpet! Like we tell our guests on the tour, in Hollywood, things are not often what they seem!

What you see in the picture above, is exactly what you get. That red carpet starts and leads no where!

No comments: