Give me a politician to interview any time. Bureaucrats are stressful to handle but celebrities are a nightmare. Not because they are horrible persons (well, some of them are) but because of the cordon sanitaire that surrounds them.
When I was still doing my POPASIA column, I managed to interview a lot of celebrities, most of them from Taiwan thanks to my friends from there. Some experiences were more pleasant than others. But I soon realized that no matter how much we probe into celebrities, we will only manage to skim the surface and that depends on what they choose to share with the public. So interviewing, even covering celebrities, somehow lost its attraction. Occasionally, something would pop up on the horizon that I deem would be worthy despite the limitations and stress involved. Like CNBlue, who I will be covering in two days.
Of course I shouldn’t be complaining when there are many out there who would love to meet celebrities and see them up close. But I’d rather enjoy them in a concert or a film or a drama than cover them in press conference or do interviews where 100% of the questions have been previously screened and their answers most likely rehearsed and approved by management.
When interviewing celebrities, it’s SOP to send questions in advance. I have lost count the number of times my questions have been rejected because they were too personal or too sensitive or “does not have anything to do with what the artist is promoting”. Image management is serious business in the entertainment industry and there can be no room for any misinterpretation that could lead to scandals. But the press and fans alike go ahead and (mis)interpret anyway.
Having questions approved is just the first step. Once you’re confirmed for the presscon or the interview, there are the “rules” to follow. Entertainment firms are more dictatorial than governments, seriously. And their entourage and bodyguards more scary and bitchy than the Secret Service.
Here are some of the “rules” that I have encountered in blind items because it’s more fun to guess:
– refrain from using camera flash and mute the cameras (I haven’t even figured out to this day how to mute a DSLR) because this Hallyu actor will get distracted.
– wait for this male idol to extend first his hand because if he doesn’t, he’s probably not in the mood.
– please stand once Hallyu actor enters the room (I suppose, just like you do with a head of state).
– no sensitive questions for this female idol because she’s very young to handle difficult questions (at the time, she was already 26 years old).
– no photo-taking for the article with this male idol unless you pay for his make-up.
– ask your questions to the male superstar first before asking his co-stars (starlets).
– if male idol does not finish his filming within the time given, there will be no interview (never mind if the location was far).
– female idol’s manager has to be present in the interview.
Of course some of the rules make sense but one gets the impression that no matter how old these celebrities are, they are handled with kid gloves. Sometimes too the people surrounding them second-guess them that they end up being too protective. Perhaps it comes with experience, maybe they were screamed at before for breaking the “protocol” so I can’t really blame them.
But there are the nice ones too. Like this male idol who offered to hold my recorder during the interview because there was no surface to put it on. Or another male idol who was hands-on with the interview, even calling me to confirm. Or a female idol chasing after me just to thank me for the interview.
There are the surprises too like another female idol turning out to be really charming, down-to-earth and smart. But that’s a good surprise. How about the superstar who turned out to be a self-absorbed ass? Or the male idol who didn’t bother to hide the fact that he was bored answering the questions?
Sure, they’re just human and most probably they’ve answered the questions they get asked a gazillion times already. Just imagine those Hollywood stars doing a promo blitz of their movie across the world and being confronted with the same questions at all the stops, only in different languages.
But what I can’t really understand is the scripted press conference that’s very common in the country where I am based. Perhaps it’s to do away with translation difficulties and being asked a bomb question is not exactly pretty and things can go out of control. But it’s just a mockery when you’re given the questions drafted by god knows who and sit there the entire time like you’re watching TV while a host asks the questions and the celebrities answer like in a military review line.
The questions are face-palm worthy too, as if they’re doing a teen magazine interview. Well maybe majority of the press covering come from all these entertainment magazines that cater to teenage fans who are more interested in the favorite food of their idols and what their hobbies are. And maybe I’m the idiot who expects them to discuss issues, not necessarily those that will change the world, but issues that have something to do with their work as artists. I won’t even ask them who they’re dating.
But the worst is when they expect glowing, positive articles. The thing is, most of the time, I don’t even know what to write because I have so little material to work with. I do have reason to believe that the PRs don’t even read the entire article, they just skim through it looking for something to complain about like whether you spelled the artist’s name right. What does it matter if the article sucks, you’re not in it for a Pulitzer anyway, right?
I can’t have my money back so… just enjoy the show.
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9 thoughts on “[blog] why covering entertainment is not entertaining”
Thank you for this illuminating post. Most of the celebrities’ interviews are incredibly boring and now we know the reason behind it. So, do the politicians care less about their image? Why are they more fun to interview?
let’s just say politicians are of a different breed. and for most of them, what’s important is being in the news. the adage “bad publicity is still publicity” applies more to them than entertainers. entertainers, especially idols, pay a high premium for scandals. of course there are politicians who pay the price for their shenanigans but it’s bigger news when a “squeaky clean” idol gets tangled in a scandal. maybe because the public consciousness leans toward politicians being corrupt anyway hahahaha
and let’s face it, politicians are better at extemporaneous public speeches. entertainers are used to having scripts most of the time.
Wow wow wow, I love this inside scoop. It is ridiculous though, just how much prescreened Qs and whatever there is – is there anything (or anyone) who is even real then? And all those interviews in magazines too, does this mean basically all the celebrities are like only 10% keeping it real?
(This also makes me feel a tiny bit sad, like everyone’s just play-acting a persona…)
oops I didn’t intend for this post to end up like that LOL but yeah, that’s how it is.
of course there are instances when entertainers become less guarded and are more candid. but it still boils down to what they want to share with the public.
I’ll give you an example: Wu Chun. I interviewed him in Brunei. that time, the rumors that his longtime gf has just given birth were swirling about. he denied it. yet he was so candid and relaxed during the interview. and he must have known that I knew something since the interview was brokered by someone in his circle. then voila, he came out with the truth years later.
in short, celebrities will talk once they’re ready to talk, in their own pace, in their own time. in the meantime, we just have to deal with the half-truths LOL
Hehe I always love reading your articles about your journalism yupki! :3 I could understand why the interview questions must be pre-screened…the problem is that like you mentioned, most of the questions always end up being the same/similar to other interviews. =_=
But why do you have to ask the male star the question before you ask the female costars? O__O
that one… coz the male star is a superstar while his co-stars were starlets LOL I mean the PR didn’t have to tell us since the questions would naturally veer toward the bigger star but it was so amusing how they reminded us hahahahaha
thanks for reading my angst! LOL
Ohh ok. And I will read your angst anytime! 😉
Hi! XD I’ve been following your blog not only for the Arashi -related contents but also for the articles about other Asian artists especially those from Taiwan. I used to think that you’re very lucky to have interviewed and met them (you’ve met Arashi in Korea, right?) but now I realize how difficult your work is. I wonder what the protocols are for Arashi/Johnny’s? I bet it would be more tedious although i think more because of the agency than the artists. Thanks for all those wonderful and insightful blogposts. They make fangirling more fun. :))
there seems to be only one protocol for JE: controlled interviews, more controlled than what I have seen and experienced hahahaha and yes, you’re right, they would be more tedious and I could imagine even more tedious than asking for an interview with the prime minister. but that’s how they are able to maintain their control on the industry and on fangirls in general so yeah, we are all hostage to Uncle Johnny’s heavy-handed way of doing things.
thanks for reading my blog and glad to know you’re able to get something from my posts.
have a great week ahead!