C. Robert Cargill has worked as a film critic for numerous publications including Ain’t It Cool News (where he wrote under the pseudonym “Massawyrm”), Film.com, and Hollywood.com for over a decade. Recently, he moved from criticism to creation; his first novel, “Dreams and Shadows,” is due early next year, and his first produced screenplay hits theaters this Friday. It’s called “Sinister,” a horror film about a true crime writer (played by Ethan Hawke) who finds a box of strange home movies that could be connected to his latest book.
With “Sinister” nearing its release date, Cargill embarked on a national press tour to promote the movie, and after he returned home, he penned a lengthy Facebook post about the experience. It’s fascinating to read how a critic reacts to being on the other side of the microphone — and how it feels to be pampered and chauffeured and wined and dined and interrogated over and over. It’s the sort of inside look at the Hollywood publicity machine that the Hollywood publicity machine typically tries to keep from the public.
I asked Cargill if I could reprint some of his post here, and he was nice enough to say yes. So here’s what it feels like when the interviewer becomes the interviewee — dozens of times a day for a solid week:
“The press tour was madness. The whole thing began with our day 2 Premiere at Fantastic Fest and stretched into 8 straight days of nonstop weirdness. But by the time I boarded a plane on Tuesday morning, it sank into a full on reality-tunnel-altering experience. If you’ve ever wondered why many celebrities turn out so weird, it is because of their constant exposure to the world I got a 4 day taste of…
Once morning media is done it is back to the hotel and straight to a conference room for several hours of back to back press interviews. This is where your mind begins to go numb. There are no breaks. It is nonstop, steady questioning for 2-4 hours, with rarely even a minute between interviews to use the restroom or even collect your thoughts. The faces, names and outlets blur together. You meet people you’ve met before – even the night before – and you have no recollection of them. You’ve met over 200 people in the last day – easy – and it’s impossible to keep it all straight. The questions are often the same. Your answers, no matter how hard you try, all contain fragments of the same jokes or observations. It is impossible to stay fresh. You try, hard, but it’s impossible. The questions just aren’t varied enough to allow any one interview to stand out unless you go completely off script and get wild with an interviewer. When you do your rep gets a hair nervous until it plays well. The rep takes your lunch order for a quick nibble after the interviews. You wrap up the last one and it is up to your room to pack and get ready for your next plane. Maybe you grab a bite to eat, maybe you catch a 30 minute nap, maybe you’re running late and you have to scramble to get everything back in your bags. Then back in the SUV and to the airport where, if you’re running late, someone is there with your boarding passes, ready to speed you through security and walk you to your gate to get you on the plane come hell or high water. You hug the rep who has been the most important person in your life for the past 24 hours, tell them you hope to work with them again, then leave for the next city.
I did this for 4 days straight and by day four was feeling isolated, strange and a little lonely. Lord only knows how lonely I would have been if I weren’t traveling alongside one of my best friends. I can’t even imagine how actual celebrities feel after doing this on their own for weeks at a time. There was nothing I needed to do for myself but be myself. Everything I needed, from Dayquil to a pack of gum, was gotten for me by someone else. When I did need something at a strange hour, the front desk had it, charged it to the room and it was picked up by the studio. It is not a normal world. And certainly not one I would want to do anything but briefly visit. Is the pampering nice? Yeah. It’s great. But when on a tight schedule, it becomes a bizarre blur of stimulus that you get very little time to process.
Live in this world for too long and it has to do awful things to your head. I’ve learned more about the industry and its mindset in four days than I did in 10 years as a critic. If only there were some kind of bootcamp for interviewers that puts them in the headspace that they’re wrestling with. I’ll be pondering ways to improve future experiences as well as lay it down for other writers to help them understand why interview subjects act the way they do. After all, it’s one thing to hear stories of a difficult actress – it’s another to understand what it has to be like to do 30 interviews a day for a week all starting with ‘So what was it like to work with INSERT A LIST ACTOR HERE?’
I’ll tell ya, it was fun, furious and fraught with adventure, but nothing felt better than getting home, sleeping in my own bed next to my wife, and waking up to order a pizza from Conan’s. That was bliss.”
Read more of C. Robert Cargill’s trip through the “Sinister” press tour. “Sinister” opens in theaters this Friday.