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A (lengthy) footnote or two to Shawn Levy's response to David Moon's
inquiry about film critics and info about films.
Shawn wrote on 2/8/95:
>  A press kit distributed by the studio/distributor
>is the best (because the most retrievable), then I like to call someone who
>might have a press kit (or check a review in "Variety" or "The Hollywood
>Reporter"), then my handwritten notes from the screening, then I might call
>another critic. I don't recall ever reading the poster for info, but why not
>-- it's as subject to proofreading and contractual stipulations as the
>credits or the press kit.
The information supplied by press kits must always be taken with a grain of
salt because:
        1)  Their main purpose is to hype the film.  The info they do
provide is there in large part to influence critics to include more of it
in their reviews and thus write longer reviews about the film and,
consciously or unconsciously, include some of the press kit's laudatory
        2)  The background info they supply on the performers and
filmmakers is often incomplete:  their failures are usually not mentioned
in whatever filmographic material may be provided, or their film debuts may
be reported incorrectly (to make them seem younger?).  An example of both
is that the press kit for MERMAIDS calimed that Cher's first movie role was
in SILKWOOD (1983) when actually it was in WILD ON THE BEACH (1965).
        3)  The production background material, the synopsis (there's
always a partial synopsis and sometimes a detailed one), and the credits
may have been written before the final release version of the film and so
may not accurately describe what you see on the screen. The ending may have
been reshot and/or sequences edited out; as a further result, a major
character may have become a minor one or a supporting actor may have
disappeared entirely. (You can see a comparable situation in PREMIERE
magazine's recent preview capsule synopsis of HOUSEGUEST, which bears only
a partial resemblance to the actual film.)
        4)  If there were any problems during the production, they will not
be mentioned unless they reflect positively on the filmmakers (such as
Coppola battling tropical storms to film APOCALYPSE NOW).  It's a safe bet,
for example, that the press kit for the upcoming pirate film starring Geena
Davis and directed by Rennie Harlin will make no mention of all the stars
and directors who have come and gone on this project.
        5)  The press kit may not reflect what you think is important about
a film.  Paramount, for example, always skimps on credit information in its
press kits, providing about what you'd see on a poster rather than in the
end credits.  While producers are always given little bios in press kits
these days, editors or production designers or directors of photography are
sometimes ignored.
I used to write down the important credits as they went by on the screen,
but as my handwriting has become less legible, I've come to rely more on
the creidt info in press kits and (better and more accurate) VARIETY
reviews.  There are still some cases, however, where I've received no press
kit for a film and VARIETY hasn't already printed a review and so, as
recently as last month, found myself having to drive out to the multiplex
(in the rain, even) to copy some credit information off the poster to
include in my review for the local newspaper.
--Richard J. Leskosky
Richard J. Leskosky                     office phone: (217) 244-2704
Assistant Director                      FAX: (217) 244-2223
Unit for Cinema Studies                 University of Illinois