[At the end of this I have added a report from a journalist who did go to this screening. Skip down to read that]
Why won’t there be a review of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer from me?
Ask Tiffany Chen. She’s the insulting woman who stonefaced me at the screening tonight, treating me with the kind of base disrespect I wouldn’t even heap on a dyed in the wool Transfan. Well, okay, maybe on them. Anyway…
Tiffany Chen is the Fox publicist who I contacted on Wednesday June 6, asking about a New York City screening of the movie. Here’s the e-mail:
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2007 1:12 PM
To: Tiffany Chen
Subject: Fantastic Four?
I haven’t heard anything from you guys about FANTASTIC FOUR screenings
yet… I really enjoyed the first one and am looking forward to the
sequel, so I’d love to get a chance to see it.
Cinematic Happenings Under Development
Member NYFCO (New York Film Critics Online)
Here was the reply I got:
From: Tiffany Chen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Fantastic Four?
Headers: Show All Headers
Thursday, June 14, 2007 at 7:00pm at Chelsea West, 333 West 23rd Street.
Please let me know if you will bring a guest.
That wasn’t the end of it. Earlier this week, Harvey Karten, the leader of our little NYFCO group, sent an email to the folks at Fox, sending a list of NYFCO members and requesting that they be invited. So my name was in front of Fox’s – and Tiffany’s, specifically – faces twice in regards to this film.
When I arrived at the theater I saw a long line to get in, never a great omen at an all-media press screening. The people who get the free passes for movies tend to be among the least well-behaved audiences I’ve ever sat with; in an all-media for The Ring Two a fight broke out in the audience during the film. I was a half hour early for the film, though, which is usually before they start filing the civilians in to fill whatever seats journalists and other members of the media haven’t taken.
At the door I found out my name wasn’t on the list to get in. This is already an issue, since I contacted Tiffany last Wednesday. But it happens, so I got the door guy to let me in to the theater to find Tiffany.
Entering the auditorium where the movie would be played I found a spectacle – there was a reserved seating section roped off and the rest of the theater was jam-packed with roiling masses of loud people. To say it was a zoo would be incorrect, since even zoos have space for the animals.
Tiffany wasn’t there, but I eventually found her by the front door. “I’m Devin Faraci from CHUD.com,” I said. “I RSVPed to this last week but I’m not on the list.”
She handed me a digital press kit and told me to go on in. “Actually,” I said, “I was hoping to get a reserved ticket."
"There are seats available," she told me dismissively.
I knew that was technically true. "The theater’s packed and I’m here to review the movie, so I’d like to be able to have a decent seat to see it,” I said. The reserved section is in the center of the theater; any seats remaining were on the extreme sides and in the front couple of rows.
“There are seats,” Tiffany told me, giving me the stone face.
“Well, I’ve seen other reviewing press going in with reserved tickets, so I’d just like the same.” That was the truth. I saw the guy who writes for nycmovieguru.com – seriously – going in with a reserved ticket. Go ahead and check out his site.
“I don’t make the reserved lists. There are seats available,” she said again, like I was retarded or deaf or in some other way didn’t understand what she was saying, which essentially was, “I do not care about you. While my job as a publicist is to deal with you, I’d rather just toss you into a shitty seat rather than even think about this.”
By now I was pretty steamed. “Who does make the list?” I said. “Because I never even had a chance to get on the reserved seat list because you never managed to get me on the goddamned entry list in the first place. Now, I’m supposed to review this film tonight, and I’d really like a reserved ticket so I can get a seat.”
And again: “There are seats.”
Fuck this, I thought. I tossed her digital press release back in the box. “I am not going to go into a goddamned packed full theater and hunt for a crappy seat when I should be in the reserved section,” I fumed.
Tiffany Chen walked away from me.
Now I was furious. “What the fuck?” I said. “Why is it that I always have this problem with Fox movies? Why is it that I email you and don’t get replies or get a hassle when I show up for the screening.”
Tiffany Chen gave me the gas face, like I had just laid a huge fart, shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
At this point I stormed out of the theater. Tiffany Chen didn’t do her job – my absence from the list was proof of that. But on top of that, Tiffany Chen, the unpleasant, nasty little piece of work that she is, couldn’t be bothered to treat me with basic decency. Something as simple as “I’m sorry, there must have been a mistake, I wish I could do something” – ie, basic politeness – would have mollified me enough that I probably would have gone into the theater and, annoyed but realizing mistakes happen, have taken whatever seat I could find. I’ve done it in the past, when I came to screenings and was denied decent seating. But Tiffany Chen couldn’t be bothered to act with basic decency; instead she chose to treat me like a child and act insultingly and disrespectfully to my face.
Is this what Fox tells their publicists to do? Is this the way that Fox wants to present itself to journalists? I’ve been stonewalled and essentially blacklisted by Fox in the past, and while I don’t understand it – hey, I just want to promote your fucking movies by running interviews with your talent – I’ve accepted it. I won’t be going to any Fox junkets because I don’t get invited. I have to be proactive and beg to get into Fox screenings. This, for whatever inane reason, is my status quo. But it turns out that I’ll accept being treated like shit as long as I’m not being treated like shit to my face.
Some of you are going to think I’m overreacting. I’m not. First of all, it’s already annoying enough as a professional film journalist – and I make my living doing this – to have to sit in a theater packed with miscreants and then be expected to make a fair judgment of the movie. Asking me to do that from a seat where I’m craning my neck just to see what’s happening is ridiculous. Fox had other screenings, but as always the online press gets treated like the redheaded stepchild, and we only are allowed to attend the very last one.
This is also costing CHUD.com hits. I was one of the few people who gave Fantastic Four a good review; I see people linking my stories and reviews in message boards across the web (yeah, I Google myself) and other posters still respond with "This is the guy who gave Fantastic Four a better review than Batman Begins." I know there are readers interested in what I have to say about this movie, if only to keep hating on me. This is me trying to do my job.
But on top of that, Tiffany Chen’s job is to deal with people like me, and to do it in a courteous and professional manner. This is how I approached her, and she treated me like I was a contagious and annoying leper. A publicity organization that tolerates such aggressively rude behavior is a deeply dysfunctional one at best.
There’s some personal animosity towards me and this site somewhere in the Fox hierarchy – the fact that the guy from nycmovieguru.com got reserved seats and I couldn’t get on the entry list proves that they aren’t making their decisions based on how many hits a website gets, that’s for sure. The atrocious treatment I received at the hands of Tiffany Chen at this screening is just the end of a long line of indifference and cold shoulders I’ve gotten from Fox in general.
Honestly, I don’t usually get mad about this stuff. This is all a game, and the way to play it is through politeness and kindness. I’ve reached out to people at Fox time and again, and all I’m looking for is either a simple acknowledgment of my existence or an explanation for why this site is frozen out of so many events and screenings. To be fair, Fox sucks with all online outlets (except IESB, that is), but the treatment I’ve received has gone beyond annoying to unprofessional and personally offensive.
But that’s just my side. Ask Tiffany Chen what her problem is.
[Edited to add: Our problems have been with Fox specifically, and not Fox Searchlight, whose publicists have always been friendly, helpful and professional.]
Second edit: A journalist who DID get into the reserved section sent me an email with a report of the chaos inside this screening. Among the things he noted:
- a father and son who snuck into the reserved seating with a microwave popcorn bag they crinkled the whole film
- a Fox publicist asking journalists to move around to make room for her boyfriend
- a 20 minute late start of the film
and most incredibly:
- a journalist was punched in the face by a member of the audience after the movie. If you know who this journalist was, or if it was you, please contact me.