Recently, because of my job at AnnArbor.com, I got an amazing opportunity: I spent an afternoon on the set of the feature film “Cedar Rapids,” which was in the last few days of filming in the area. The film stars Ed Helms, Anne Heche, John C. Reilly and Kurtwood Smith (Red from “That ’70s Show”), all of whom were involved in that day’s shoot.
Being a fan of Helms, both from “The Daily Show” and “The Office,” and Reilly, who’s just an terrific actor all-around, it was exciting to stand a few feet from them as they rehearsed, then filmed, a scene around a hotel’s indoor pool.
Normally, when a film with big-name stars comes to town (thanks to Michigan’s aggressive tax incentives, this happens often nowadays), here’s how things go: if I’m lucky, I get the name of a publicist, and often, they blow me off. But recently, I’ve been really fortunate. David Schwimmer, in town to direct “Trust,” held a press conference and let us see a couple of sets for the film; and the publicist for “Cedar Rapids” was the most helpful, friendly, and facilitating one I’ve dealt with yet.
I’d arrived at the Clarion Hotel, where the “Cedar Rapids” crew was shooting, and Jeremy, the publicist, let me watch what was happening throughout the afternoon while introducing me to a locally-hired actor; Kurtwood Smith; the costume designer (who also worked on “500 Days of Summer” and was fabulously fun to chat with); a producer, Jim Burke; and the director, Miguel Arteta.
At that point, it was nearly 5:30 p.m., and I told Jeremy that I needed to go. I’d been at the site for about four hours, and normally, I wouldn’t even have been able to stay that long, since I usually pick up Lily from daycare at around 4:30 or 5 p.m. But Joe had scheduled a pediatrician appointment (to get her second swine flu shot) late that day, so I figured I’d already stolen an extra 90 minutes from that.
But then Jeremy said, “Oh, you have to go? I was hoping to sit you down with some of the other actors.”
Oh, crap, I thought. I’d LOVE to get the chance to talk to these movie stars, and the bigger the stars, the more Internet traffic my piece would be likely to get. But it sounded like it would be a while yet before such an interview could take place, and it wasn’t a sure thing, so in the end, I told Jeremy, “I’d really, really like to, but I need to get home to my little girl.”
Now, in a sense, this was silly and a bit irrational. How many opportunities does one get to do something like this? Even in my line of work, this kind of access is unusual. And Joe’s certainly capable of caring for Lily for the bulk of one weekday evening.
But I missed Lily and Joe. I wanted to know how the shot went, and I was afraid Joe was still trapped in his suit from work. Am I mental?
Seriously. Two years ago, if you’d told me that I’d step away from the chance to talk, face to face, with some big name stars because I wanted to see my family – the people I see everyday – I would have laughed at you. But here I was, doing just that.
Maybe part of it is that in my job, I’ve had wonderful chances to talk with famous performers of various stripes, so opting out of one big interview, especially after investing four hours, didn’t seem like some kind of personal apocalypse. I’ve realized along the way that famous people are just people who do something that seems glamorous and exciting to the rest of us. They want to do their work, talk to the people they’re asked to (like me), and get home and see their families.
So as odd as my choice may seem in retrospect, to others as well as myself, I feel at peace with it. Should I have been a more passionate, dedicated journalist and stuck it out for the better story? Perhaps. But my hope is that the personal choices and values that make me who I am ultimately make me a better writer/reporter.
Inevitably, my two worlds will continue to occasionally clash in the future; but I’ll just have to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis, and continue to wonder at how much having a child has changed me, despite my hopes that it wouldn’t.