Beyond the Red Chairs: Dissecting Personal Appearances

Posted by Keriece Harris on September 12, 2012

With the Toronto International Film Festival in full swing, there is no shortage of daily celebrity spottings and absolutely no reason to feel left out of it.  In fact, on the shoulders of the reservation of a colleague, I was able to witness (almost touch and breathe upon) Jason Priestley, Eli Roth and Bill Connolly interviewing with George Stroumboulopoulos for CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight show.

These personal appearances were of course not random, but calculated moves for each made by their respective publicity team. Personal appearances serve not only to keep the client relevant and in the spotlight but also to garner attention for any recent projects, films, TV shows, albums, and/or products associated with them.  A good personal appearance typically consists of having the client: show up, be knowledgeable and prepped for any questions/scenarios that may come up, provide short concise answers to keep things moving forward and successfully get their message across.

Of the three appearances, Billy Connolly’s proved to be the most successful. He came to promote two films, The Hobbit and Quartet and that’s what he did. At the beginning of the interview he was given room to speak about Quartet and he was able to properly speak about the director, cast and give a small synopsis of the film. In addition, with a major theme of the film being senior citizens, Billy was still able to use ageism to speak about the work he put into his character whilst also commenting on a recent recasting for a 60 yr old butler for a play, for which a 70 yr old actor started using tremors to show age when he had no tremors himself. He also ensured the interview continued in the direction he preferred even interrupting George so as to make his point clear before changing subjects. This also allowed for a good portion of the interview to be about his second film, The Hobbit. For this film, he spoke more to the special effects, setting and tomfoolery of it all. And of course, as a comedian, he generally made jokes and even made serious issues funny and palatable for the audience.

In contrast, Eli Roth came out of his interview being remembered for being the “Bare Jew” (Sgt Donny Donowitz) in Inglorious Bastards. Apart from the few sentences he mentioned about Aftershock, his film at TIFF at the beginning of the interview and the last minute mention in the closing seconds of his year round Haunted House, he was mostly lead astray during this interview. It was apparent he wasn’t fully prepared as it took him awhile to answer some questions and was not able to keep the focus on the two items he came to promote, but instead jumped downed the rabbit hole behind George and ended up repromotingInglorious Bastards and making guests uncomfortable with his retelling of projectile vomiting during horror films as a child. Furthermore, Jason Priestley  also left the interview chair with no new information communicated about him except for his wobbly political view that Canada’s education system  is better than the America’s, yet he would continue to raise his kids in L.A. (Is that a huge contradiction or what?) He also allowed himself to be lead by George and struggled to answer questions. But more importantly, we didn’t hear any mention of his new film Snap, but talked about his death in a series by episode 4 of the new season briefly and then it was back to the 90210 glory days.

In sum, preparation is key.  And if your publicist can’t keep you on track, it might be time to go shopping for a new one. Because if in a 20-30 minute interview one is not able to find out anything new about you or even arrive at what the focus of the interview was, then that’s a huge communications error and your relevance as a celebrity has been compromised. No doubt the average person will find these interviews highly entertaining, but to investors the joke would be on them as the missed opportunities of Eli and Jason burn holes in their bank books.