This weekend, I travelled to The Bahamas for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory press junket. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a press junket is a two or three day period during which the stars and filmmakers of a movie meet with the press (both domestic and international) to answer questions about the film. Since most of the U.S. media is based in New York or Los Angeles, press junkets are usually in one of these two cities.
Which begs the question, why the hell was the press junket in The Bahamas?
Answer: Johnny Depp. He’s currently shooting the sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean down there, and since he’s The Guy on the Poster, Warner Bros. decided to fly everyone to The Bahamas so he could participate.
The event itself was at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. I’d never been to the Caribbean, but I’ve been to Vegas plenty of times, so here’s my best analogy. Take The Luxor, exchange the Egyptian theme for a vaguely Mayan one, add in Mandalay Bay‘s shark tanks, and put the whole thing on a pretty beach. It’s only an hour-and-a-half from Florida, so that’s your target audience.
I ended up spending a whopping 20 hours in the country, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on anything about The Bahamas beyond the fact that everyone I met was friendly.
As for the press junket itself, my job was to sit next to producer Richard Zanuck and answer questions from three different groups of journalists, all of whom had just seen the movie at a special screening. Then I did an on-camera interview for a VH-1 special.
In all, I travelled about 18 hours for less than three hours of actual work. Was it worth it?
Hard to say. I honestly don’t know if a single quote of mine will appear in any of the stories about Charlie. I try to say honest and witty things, but given a choice between me and Mr. Depp, a reporter will always use his quotes. I knew that going in. And for most of the longer stories about the movie, I do in-person or phone interviews, which are most easily done from Los Angeles.
However, I think it’s important that the screenwriter show up for junkets. My being there hopefully reminds journalists that the movie was written before it was shot. Far too often in the entertainment press, the only mention of the screenwriter is to lambaste a (supposedly) dreadful script; in success, we’re invisible. At least for a few sweaty hours in The Bahamas, I was part of the story.