Shooting Stars at the EIFF

Sean Connery

Sean Connery at the EIFF

EIFF was one of the world’s first international film festivals, and helped to define the type of event that has since become so pivotal to film culture in nations all over the world.
We get an insight into life shooting the stars on the EIFF red carpet.

Celebrity – No thanks!
It’s the Edinburgh Film Festival again and I’m in the press pen for the main red carpet event – the opening film, “Away We Go” directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty et al).

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes at the EIFF

Sam is a very talented guy but this, industry, ah , this industry, well I’m only on the periphery really but cynical, moi? Almost completely! It’s only talent like Sam Mendes that really gives it any real cred. Producers and Directors are the driving forces that get films made. Writers are important too. Actors? Well, yeah, a bit… on big films where often the whole thing is built round them – Schwarznegger type thing.
But in truth, they “could get someone else” and often and average film can be a great film simply because they couldn’t get the person they wanted originally and the one they got turns in the performance of a lifetime…. it does happen – Jane Horrocks in Little Voice for instance.

The rest of the cast and crew? well, there’s a lot of out of work actors out there! The “plight” of Joey Trebiani in Friends is not far from the truth!. So here we are, a bunch of guys hanging around. The same bunch as last year. But there are no really big names here tonight. Last year was great – we had Hollywood legend and madster, John Walters, Joely Richardson – possibly the most elegant and beautiful woman I think I ever clapped eyes on, Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley – more girls than women and Sir Sean Connery! Ahhh, Sir Sean and his lady, Micheline – they were good last year – not intimidated one bit by the phalanx of snappers rattling their shutters at them. They’re here again this as the original Bond is patron of the EIFF.

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming at the EIFF

Alan Cummings minces past confidently – camp and cool and very obliging to the press. He knows how to give us snappers the time and looks so we shut up and take the picture.

Here’s a tip if you and up on a red carpet. Look at each camera lens left to right for three seconds and SMILE! Wave a little or hold the shoulder of the other people if you’re doing a group shot. Then do it again. Finally if someone is calling your name, look! They’ll love you for it will be less likely to be horrible to you.
People in the press pen are a well defined group. There are the total professional like Murdo McCloud from – he is a photojournalist par excellence and he’s taking your picture, it means you are somebody. Then there are local people – the sort who shoot for Evening News type newspapers. Then there are the “in house” snappers who have been hired by the Festival to shoot the guests – they get the best spots and have things arranged for them. Lucky blighters. After that, there are the agency people who shoot for companies who supply images to the industry at different levels. These guys have good gear and often they will send their images directly to the papers by mobile computer links as soon as the “celebs” have gone inside and there are no other photo opportunities worth having. As photographers, their job is distant from the old idea of the photographers who had an input to the publishing process. Often pictures are selected simply because they happen to be composed in the right proportion to fit the space in the newspaper!

Then there are the Papps – the Papparazzi people – looking only for the current hit personality (on this occasion, Susan Boyle who was in Edinburgh that day) or people of a similar ilk who just might arrive. I have to say, some of these Papps are not nice…. you know the type. After that you have the likes of me, the freelancers who shoot for a smaller outfits, in my case the film fan website, We love cinema and we know the names of the smaller stars on the carpet. For us it’s fun and exciting and we often get a few quid for our shots. There are also a small group quiet guys who shoot to add to a body of work ….. “they say he knew the Beatles…… mmmmmm!” Ooooerrr missus! The Beatles! Sounds a bit unlikely but actually, it turns out to be true and this quietly self possessed, older looking guy was in the right place a the right time 50 years ago…. Finally there are the wannabes who have somehow managed to get a press pass and will take pictures and give them away.
So we’re all waiting for the celebs to arrive when a willowy brunette comes walk along the red carpet with a cameraman and starts to shoot a “piece to camera” for Ireland’s Xpose! programme – synopsis: Unfeasibly pretty girls open the chocolate box of high fashion and celebrity for the rest of us girls and gorge themselves on it! Except when you see them trying to put stuff together and failing, it looks rubbish and not really glamorous. I see her heels and they’re a wee bit worn looking though her dress is nice and she’s a good figure. She asks us for a favour – would we all take pictures while she does her bit to camera? Thanks! We oblige.

But alas she is leg-pulled and can’t keep a straight face. She makes the mistake of pulling her tongue out and that really sets the shutters flying – pretty girl looks ugly – a candid moment – and she’s given us gold…… ah but wait – even with her tongue out, you can’t deny she looks gorgeous! Well, all the better!
The main players arrive, we shoot hundred of shots off each – I can take up to 2300 12 mbyte shots before I have to change my memory card. The noise is …. annoying and as each photographer shouts for attention I’m thinking I’m actually the real observer here – watching the photographers watching them on your behalf and I get real pictures of the event. It’s better that way. Within 15 minutes it’s all over and the barriers are being removed, the platform disassembled and the cones put away until the tomorrow night.

Gossip is exchanged between the top snappers and everybody is trying to pick up snippets that might give them a clue to the next hot venue. Then the top guys are off the to the Oasis concert at Murrayfield – well, some wish they didnt have to go but they need the money.. and I wish I had the chance to go and take pictures too but then again maybe not. When it’s your job, celebrity just aint the same……

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