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Despised and rejected of men...

15 November 2005

Okay, here's an exercise in contrast, in how or how not to conduct media relations. Watch and learn.

It is one of the perks of the little local celebrity that I enjoy (and oh, I do enjoy it) that I tend to get invited to press events: previews, opening nights, launches, that sort of thing. These invitations are generally reckoned to be unconditional.

As, for example, last night, when I took a friend to the theatre. The Royal Shakespeare Company is in town, bringing their entire Stratford season, as they do every year; the season is a sell-out, as it is every year; I am going to see everything, as I do every year, and it costs me nothing at all. Ordinarily I go with my friend Gail, who is a bona fide journalist and reviewer; press tickets always come in pairs, and I am her regular pair. Just now, however, Gail is in Egypt. The nice man at the Theatre Royal said, "Of course Chaz must come, even in your absence; and of course he may bring a friend, to occupy your seat."

This, clearly, is how the thing should be managed: with grace, and generosity. There was no direct benefit to them, and they knew it; but they reap a harvest of goodwill from me and Gail both, and reckon that to be worth it.

That was last night. This morning, I went to the press show of the new Harry Potter, and was turned away at the door for lack of press credentials. A Society of Authors membership card didnít cut it; apparently I'd have needed a letter to back that up, confirming that I was genuinely a reviewer. In this instance, of course, Iíd have had to write such a letter to myself, being that it's my own website I'd have been reviewing for.

Happily, I don't much care, either about the indignity (I'm more amused than angry) or about missing the film. I have read most of the Potter books, but the first film bored me. I don't quite remember whether or not I saw the second, tho' I suspect I did; I know I missed number three, and haven't made any effort to catch it since.

Iím not going to rail at length, either against the Potter-paranoids who imposed this kind of security on the screening nor against the cinema (the Odeon at The Gate in Newcastle, since you ask); railing is only useful when it's useful, when you can stir up some kind of retribution. No droves are going to boycott the movie, just because Chaz didn't get to see it for nothing.

What I wonder, though, is quite what the point was in turning me away. I very deliberately didn't take any kind of bag with me, so they knew I wasn't smuggling in piracy equipment; the most I was trying to do, then, was to see it for nothing. Which is true, but if I'd enjoyed it, it would probably have got a happy mention here, which must surely be worth the price of the seat. As it is, they're not going to recoup the price of that seat, because I certainly won't pay to see the film. What have they protected, by keeping me out? Even if I'd been a complete ligger with no access to any media space at all, I don't see how they benefit. The only benefit accrues to me; I came home and worked, and then I watched the 1950 movie of Kipling's Kim, which is one of my favourite novels. I probably enjoyed the movie far more than I would have liked the Potter; it's really not a bad adaptation at all, except that Mahbub Ali is Errol Flynn, and apparently called Ma Boobly. But oh, the scene where heís scrubbing young Dean Stockwell in his bath - oh deary, deary me...

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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.