It's your big chance to get that autograph Magic Markered onto your bicep! Not. Kenny Ulloa explains how to behave yourself when there's a celebrity on set.
This article has been contributed from the Fall 2010 issue of Resource Magazine, courtesy of the publisher. To subscribe to the magazine and explore Resource’s online features, visit the Resource Magazine website.
Illustration by Julia Lepetit.
Accompanied by a tight group of burly men in black suits, the clumsy pop-star entered the studio wearing dark shades and a grubby Yankees cap. Behind her trailed a row of publicists and her full-time styling team, casually dismissing the under-cooked eggs and plopping down on the ornate studio furniture. On the over-stuffed leather couch sat the glowing blue faces of an entourage immersed in a smartphone limbo. Our starlet was awaiting her fashion metamorphosis.
Who is this young lady? What show is this for? How come she gets her own separate table for catering? Well, it’s because she’s famous, or at the very least famous enough to command a team of producers and assistants to put together a photo shoot.
No matter what the case is, whenever we get a glimpse of this élite group, we tend to gawk and act like the rough handed working class we’re expected to be. Reactions range from the electrified and jumpy intern to the jaded photo industry vet who’s “seen it all.”
Make eye-contact, smile, and introduce yourself by name. Just kidding, you’re a peasant, a worker, a serf, a little person, a minion, a . . . Although the situation changes depending on the level of celebrity of the “star” you are shooting. The average poorly rated sitcom actor who is doing a cover of the now uncool Irrelevant Magazine will most likely shake hands and introduce himself to almost everyone on set, but when we change that scenario to a “blockbuster” actor on the cover of the new hypercool buzzworthy Irrelevant Magazine, you become an interchangeable worker with a prop (the digital computer guy, the assistant with big hair, the stylist who wears funky boots, the photographer with the adorable dog). Let’s just keep it simple and say, “Don’t speak unless spoken to.”
Keep your distance. Not really for the sake of the celebrity (they have mastered the art of ignoring unimportant people like you), but for the publicist. She will bite your face off if you try to come within six feet. This is mainly an exercise in power, so don’t take the smirking grins and once-overs personally.
Accommodate. Often on celebrity shoots, there are way too many bodies on set and you sometimes get questions that have nothing to do with you—like when an overzealous Hollywood-ite is asking if you control the iPod and the music. Don’t use this as an opportunity to scoff (no one is part of a union here): do your best and help whomever, no matter how misinformed their question might be. You never know when you may cross paths with this person at some point in your career.
Be discreet. Unless you’re expecting a fat payoff from the elusive paparazzi, don’t brag about the talent’s whereabouts before the shoot. Often celebs’ privacy concerns go beyond just trying to avoid crowds, so keep in mind that those empty-eyed personalities need their respect of space too.
Try to tell a story, make comments—or talk for that matter. You were never in a movie, or had lunch with Harvey Weinstein, or danced the night away drinking Cristal on a yacht in Ibiza while slurping oysters with Bono and Diddy. Your stories are lackluster compared to this celeb’s exploits. Keep the on-set funny anecdotes away from the action.
Challenge “the talent” to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. There’s a very good chance they may not know how to play the game, or maybe they might pretend not to know the game so they can get away from the idiot assistant who’s trying to score a good story to tell his friends. There’s a good chance the head of security might find your daring attempt at being cute as an act of aggression and he may angrily deter your flailing hands like a bullet headed toward a head of state.
Try to sneak in a test shot / color-chart. This is the biggest marketing blunder for some digital capturing companies. Often assistants and digital technicians suddenly become enamored with color-charts and grey balancing images. This can turn into a “get a photo of yourself with Mrs. TMZ” moment that no one appreciates. Not only is this completely unnecessary (light-tests exist for this reason), but it wastes time and money. A sparkly celeb all of a sudden turns photography professionals into teenagers trying to one up each other’s Facebook profiles? Remember we’re at work folks.
Act too cool. It’s not a good idea to pretend you don’t know who’s involved in the shoot. Playing the “I’m so old I don’t even pay attention to pop culture” card is lame. No one is going to judge you if you happen to know the real names of every cast member of Gossip Girl, so stop pretending that being thirty-four is the new sixty-five. You’re not old, just insecure with the fact that you secretly enjoy reality TV and trashy teen dramas like everyone else.