Perhaps the biggest illusion perpetuated by the movie business is that film shoots — the nuts and bolts of producing movies and television — are glamorous and fascinating. In fact, they’re not. Industry insiders compare being on a movie set to watching paint dry. (Indeed, paint drying might be the only thing that’s happening.) In those rare circumstances when intense acting is going on, or daredevil stunts, or mind-altering special effects, or simulated love-making, you can be certain that onlookers are not welcome or allowed.
For 13 years, I was an editor at Premiere, a national movie magazine that covered films in production in nearly every issue. It might have sounded like a great gig to visit the set of the latest Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts or even Quentin Tarantino movie, but, in truth, it was a frustrating assignment. Access was limited, and there was often little of substance to report. If there were problems — that is, “creative differences” — the press was quickly escorted out. The real reporting happened later.
People in Los Angeles, who have seen location shooting for decades, are particularly blasé, if not grumpy, about it. And L.A. is an industry town — the average citizen is acutely aware of the health of the studios. Hits are celebrated, and bombs are swept under the carpet. Billboards touting upcoming releases along Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood can generate excitement. Red carpet premieres draw a crowd. But not production — production is just people doing their jobs.
So, why is the shooting of the next season of American Horror Story (the worst-kept secret around) creating such a commotion in Provincetown? It keeps making front pages; Facebook is a-Twitter; fan sites are going nuts. Some grade-B star may possibly show up! There’ll be ghosts, vampires, and horror!
This is twice the fuss that Hightown caused in 2019. Remember how that rocked our world? But, then again, Hightown is on Starz, and AHS is on FX — it’s better known and respected. And there’s a bit of hometown pride: AHS co-creator Ryan Murphy has a house here.
People ask why we’re not devoting much space to covering these shoots. Mainly, it’s because there’s not much to report. It does seem that having the crews here is good for the local economy in the off season. Publicity-wise, it cuts both ways: the TV exposure could draw people in or keep them away, since Hightown is full of murder, and AHS is full of gore. Show biz royalty hasn’t shown up. These shoots are news the way the Kardashians are celebrities — they’re famous for being famous.
I think filmed entertainment is news when it’s screened. I’m for keeping real people and their issues as the true A-listers in these pages.