Sunday, September 18, 2011

Urbanworld FF: My life as a paparazzo

As I may have mentioned, the Urbanworld Film Festival is my first-ever film festival of this size and scope, and it's been a memorable experience. I had thought it would be comparable to covering a comic book convention, as I've done plenty of in the past, but even for a fest as relatively small as this one, it's quite different - and I don't just mean the lack of fans dressed as Klingons. This is the fifteenth year of Urbanworld, and over that time they've attracted an impressive variety of stars as well as films made by people of color from all around the world, and there's a certain level of glamor that goes with that - a glamor that manifests itself most sharply at the red carpet.

The red carpet here is actually indoors. The films are screening on the fourth floor of the AMC, and the stars walk down it as they come off the elevator. A barrier cordons off the media, and that's where yours truly was when I took many of the pictures you've seen over the past few days. I've got a new cellphone, and this is the first time I've taken pictures with it. They would be better, except the red carpet area where we stood had poor lighting. Only two of the three overhead lights were operational, and while the professional photographers around me had flash in their cameras, I did not. I did the best I could.

Thursday night was my first night as a paparazzo. Call time was six PM and I got there on time, but there were maybe 12-15 photogs already set up behind the barrier. The stars wouldn't arrive for another half hour at least. I made small talk with one of the shutterbugs next to me - a dude working for an overseas MTV affiliate that plays reggae music. When the stars began to arrive, even though I had a good spot I found myself getting jostled to and fro by others from all around me as they snapped away at the parade of filmmakers, stars, models, rappers and others. They called out to them, directing them to look one way, then another. I didn't feel entirely comfortable doing that myself, since I was the rookie, so I tended to rely on everyone around me when it came to taking advantage of the angle and the light from the flashes. Naturally, I took a ton of pictures in succession - you have to, because some (most) shots will be crap. If you can get one good, usable shot of your subject, consider yourself lucky.

Being in that position made me realize: celebrities do this sort of thing all the time. (Duh!) It never occurred to me until I was a part of it; I mean, we see movie stars on the red carpet at the Oscars, at Cannes, at premieres, and we don't think about what running that gauntlet must be like for them. It's not something you learn in acting school, that's for sure, and there's no way to prepare yourself for it. I'd imagine most movie stars probably experience it a handful of times a year at the most, but for the Tom Cruises and Brad Pitts, they do it constantly. Can you imagine how stressful that must be? It's no wonder some celebrities occasionally flip out and jostle or even punch a paparazzo who gets too close.

There were a lot of stars whom I didn't recognize, mostly rappers and models and a few TV stars, but I felt like I had to justify my presence there on the red carpet by snapping pics of them anyway. I was very conscious of my newbie status - I kept referring to myself as a "lowly blogger" whenever I had an extended conversation with someone - as if I'd be found out and have my precious press badge revoked.

I would've liked to have seen more movies, but it didn't work out that way for several reasons. One, I'd need time in-between shows to post about the movie I had just seen. Two, since evening shows tended to start late and I would want to stay for the after-show Q-and-As, I'd be tired and would just wanna go home instead of staying for a late show. It's too bad because I would've liked to have seen some of the shorts that were also playing.

Oh, and did I mention that in-between shows, I also swung by Vija's place on Saturday for a party she was throwing? I finished my Restless City review in a cafe across the street from her place before coming up. Vija always throws great parties, and I got to meet some friends of hers, and just when I was really enjoying myself, I had to leave again. I must've spent an hour there at most. Oh well.

So would I do this again? I like to think so. If I did, though, I'd know enough to not plan to see so many movies. I thought I could see nine movies in three days - you believe that? I imagine in someplace like Toronto it's worse, since it's so much bigger over there. If Urbanworld is any indication, I'm definitely not ready to take on a show of that size. (Remind me to tell you one day of the summer I went to the San Diego Comic-Con and how I almost lost my mind.)

Urbanworld does good work, providing a platform for good movies - movies by and for people of color, yes, but good movies first and foremost. I didn't like every film I saw, but who can expect that? Bottom line: I was in the presence of legitimate Hollywood stars and I saw movies I might not have seen as easily anyplace else. You better believe I'm grateful for that!

I'm taking tomorrow off. Back Tuesday. Look for more pics from the fest on the WSW Facebook page.


Previously from the Urbanworld Film Festival:
Brooklyn Boheme
Love Arranged
All Things Fall Apart
Restless City


  1. This is an excellent psot. I liked it with my heart. Such kind of posts are providing valuable information and also boosting us to make such kind of posts. Its really very great post.

  2. Thanks a lot. Glad you liked it.

  3. Cool! Thanks for sending me the link, Rich. Glad to hear we're covering a local film fest around the same time.

  4. Something about the timing, I guess - between mine and yours and TIFF and other fests.


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