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Ben Knight: The dos and don’ts of the Berlinale press conference

Ben has been to another press conference. This time with Clive Owen. He has decided there are some important rules for people at press conferences. Make notes.

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Photo by Eve Lucas

Despite what your prejudices might say, journalists are just like you: sad, clueless and with a carapace of cynicism built up by a life of disappointment and failure. Hey ho. Nowhere does this truth come more sharply into focus than at a film festival press conference.

There, on one side of the bank of photographers and the barrier-tape, are people who have done everything they’ve ever wanted to do, bought everything they’ve ever wanted to buy, and fucked everyone they’ve ever wanted to fuck. Here, on the near side, are a bunch of overheated, stressed-out losers, who have not only lost their chances in life, but have lost their pens and are preparing to try and make notes on their iPhones, and who wouldn’t know how to make a film if their pitiful lives depended on it.

Nor, on the evidence so far, would they be able to come up with an intelligent question if someone had kidnapped their kids and made this one of the more bizarre ransom demands.

The result is another dimension of awkwardness – it’s like an extreme speed-dating party where around 400 people vie to appeal to one person, and they each get five seconds to come up with their best line, in public and to be sneered at by their rivals.

So, following a press conference with Clive Owen, Andrea Riseborough and John Marsh on their palm-sweatingly brilliant thriller on Sunday, and in a futile effort to salvage some dignity for desperate hacks, I have come up with a special dos and don’ts guide for anyone that finds themselves at a press conferences. It’s actually mainly DON’TS.

1)    DON’T attempt to flirt in your question. No film star will ever have sex with you. That is just the way it is.

2)    DON’T attempt a joke.  One unfortunate journo’s opening gambit to Clive Owen: “Congratulations on escaping the car bombing.” No-one laughed, because a) no-one was immediately sure what he was talking about, and b) car bombings are not funny. They’re actually a bit horrific and depressing.

3)    DON’T use your question to clear up a plot point you’ve missed. “But how come she didn’t know?” It just looks really bad for all sorts of obvious reasons.

4)    DO learn to take pictures from your mid-riff area. The Berlinale officials are on the lookout and will confiscate your accreditation and chastise you in front of your peers before giving it back.

5)    DON’T ask actors if they are really acting. This is very bad.