If you’re interning at a publication, and an awards do comes up, you might get asked to go and cover the red carpet. I did it for the first time on Sunday, at the Jameson Empire Awards, and I didn’t die so here are my survival tips.
(NB: check out the fruits of my labour – i.e. a video of me speaking to famous people – here)
Get there early
It’ll say on the invitation when the media pen opens (because you’re basically all reduced to braying farm animals with microphones), so get there for that time. Slots are allocated, and you want to make sure nobody nicks yours – or you don’t end up getting there after the celebs. Plus, if it’s your first red carpet event (like mine) you might need some “time” to figure out what you’re going to ask and try and calm yourself down because you’re so nervous you’re hyperventilating (like me).
Bring a bottle of water
You’ll be standing there for a while, chatting, shouting and sweating, so don’t do what I did and forget to hydrate yourself. They don’t give journos anything, usually, so you’ll have to remember this yourself.
Make friends with the red carpet runners
It’s not clear what the technical term is for these lovely people, but they stand on the carpet and tell all the jostling reporters who has just arrived so you can nod furiously and say “YEAH I’LL INTERVIEW TOM CRUISE, SURE”. Each celebrity will only do a certain number of media “stops” so you want to make sure you’re one of those stops – before it all kicks off, it’s a good idea to ask who’ll be running the carpet and have a chat with them. If they’re too busy, then wait until they do a spot check of the slots – they’ll walk up and down the carpet checking everyone is in the right place. At that point you can say, “Hey, I’m really interested in talking to X and Y is there any chance of you trying to convince their PA to stop here?” and they’ll say “We’ll try but can’t promise anything”. They do try, though. Another good tip is to go “Oh god it’s my first red carpet space, is this a good spot?!” and they’ll take pity on you (I did this).
Know your questions
You’re going to have roughly 0.2 seconds to shout it at the celebrity, so word it well and don’t – for god’s sake – ask anything overly controversial like “Are you and Taylor Swift doing it?” because that celebrity will walk away and refuse to do any more interviews, and all the other journalists will want to kill you. This happened but, never fear, I wasn’t the one who said it. I asked nice questions.
Be prepared to jump on other’s glory
Emma Thompson made a stop in the spot before me, and I made the big mistake of thinking “Well, this is their interview time so I’ll just have to admit defeat”. Then everyone pounced on her with their questions and I realised GODDAMMIT I COULD HAVE GOT A QUOTE FROM EMMA THOMPSON.
Catch their publicist’s eye and make a “just one question” sign with a nice facial expression
Publicists are easy to spot – they’re the ones standing next to the celebs telling them they have to keep moving. Sometimes with one hand on their shoulder. Sophie Turner (aka Sansa Stark) had already passed me by, but I tapped her publicist and said “I just want to ask her about getting into acting, is that OK?” and I think she was so surprised I’d been polite and asked rather than mowing her down, she said yes. So try that – also, if you look pleading and kind on your face while being brutal with your body then you’ve struck the perfect balance. For example: The Debrief‘s Sophie Wilkinson had to ask me to stop shoving her mic with my elbow in order to speak to Sansa from Game of Thrones, but my face was pleading and kind, so I got the quotes. Afterwards, though, I rugby tackled Sophie to the ground (I didn’t really) which leads nicely onto…
Make friends with the journos around you
Just a “Oh god this again” or “I wonder if Tom Cruise will actually turn up” is enough – then, if one of you manages to get a celeb, you can all pitch in with questions. Or you can help each other catch a PAs attention. Or you can even see if one of them could ask your question for you, if it’s really not going well and they’ve snagged Arnold Schwarzenegger (difficult to do – I didn’t manage this. I just stared at Arnie and gawped like a true professional). The thing is, nobody really enjoys doing red carpet events and you’re all in the same quote-hungry boat, so it makes sense to club together. If nothing else, you can make some good contacts.
Don’t shout “CAREER ADVICE” at Tom Cruise
He will look you in the eye, smile and say “hey!” but not answer your question because he’s, presumably, confused as to why you’re asking him about careers advice.
Wear very big heels if you’re a tall person. Wear flats if you’re a short person
If you’re tall, you’ll be able to loom over everyone with your mic and see who’s coming up the carpet before everyone else (I got to yell “EDGAR WRIGHT’S HERE, EVERYONE!” which was satisfying, if not ultimately useful considering I didn’t get a quote from him). If you’re small, then the size of your heels don’t matter – you’ll still be smaller than the tall people in heels – so concentrate on your duck and dodge technique. Crawl under them and squash against the barrier like you’re at a Beyonce gig and she’s about to touch the hands of everyone in the front row.
You can use quotes other people get
So important, this. If you’re filming, like we were, then this doesn’t really apply because it’s hard to film another person’s interview, but if you just have to get written quotes, you can legitimately follow the celeb down the carpet, nicking the quotes they give other people. It’s difficult to do that, because of how crowded it gets, but not a bad idea if someone stops near you and you haven’t been able to cajole their publicist into stopping. Just hope the other journo asks them a good questions, rather than the woman who asked Emma Thompson about Scottish independence and everyone else strangled her with their eyes.
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