Home > The Gilmore Girls Companion, Writing process > ASB’s Bookclub 2: Answering a Question

ASB’s Bookclub 2: Answering a Question

Katka from the book’s Facebook page brought up an interesting question about The Gilmore Girls Companion that I wanted to address. The problem is that I want to do so without embarrassing anybody. Let’s see how well I can do that.

Naturally, that question is why did I speak with some cast and crew for the book and not others. The real question, of course, is where are Lauren, Alexis, Amy, Dan and Scott.

I touched on this a bit in the introduction to the book:

  • One of those people rarely does interviews unless directed to by networks/studios/publicists/managers
  • One let it be known that they had no interest in talking about Gilmore Girls anymore
  • Two knew about the project through a couple of mutual friends, but kept me at arms length (on this last note, they also never raised an objection, for which I’m grateful)
  • One, according to their manager, was holding on to their stories for a book they might write themselves one day.

In hindsight, I think this requires a little more explanation. Let me take a stab at it now. Apologies for the length of this posting; I only hope it clears up some misunderstandings along the way.

A Little Background, or ‘How Come Lauren’s on the Cover of Magazines Every Month But She Wasn’t Interviewed for the Book?’

To better understand how The Gilmore Girls Companion was researched and written, it’s helpful to understand how entertainment publicity works in America.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my brief career to work for USA Today, the largest newspaper in the country, to run my own fan magazine back in the day, and to write three books on television and film. All of which means I’ve been able to approach writing about entertainment from a variety of angles.

Magazines, Newspapers, and Broadcast Reporting

As you can imagine, television and film stars today are besieged with interview requests, from TV programs like Access Hollywood (I may be showing my age here) and Entertainment Tonight to magazines like Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, to trade publications like Variety, and that’s not even counting the various entertainment-related Web sites and podcasts out there. Actors could very easily spend every day giving interviews, leaving them no time to actually earn a living, if there wasn’t some sort of wall between them and the media.

Meet the walls. Since few TV stars circulate their direct contact info, writers usually must go through the star’s publicist if they have one (few do), their manager, or sometimes even their agent. If you’re writing a story for a decent-size newspaper or magazine, you have nothing to worry about — more often than not the publicist/manager/agent will set up a time for you to talk with their client, no problem. After all, part of keeping their client happy and employed is seizing every opportunity to keep him or her in the public eye.

And if a star is on a current TV show, you can always go to the network and ask for an interview (provided you’re writing for a magazine or newspaper), because networks will usually jump on any opportunity to get more people to watch its shows.

Book writers, meet the walls. Yet, as I’ve learned from working on the Gilmore book, few managers/agents/publicists will even bother to tell their clients that you want to speak with them if you’re writing a book. As one of the Gilmore stars explained it to me later on, representatives see no benefit in getting their clients into a book, because the star’s fortunes rise and fall based on the 24/7 news cycle. By the time your book comes out, the actor could’ve moved on to other projects, or even left the business altogether. (One exception to this is if the book is written by a very high-profile writer guaranteed to make headlines with their book.)

It’s at this point that I should explain that I approached just about everybody on Gilmore Girls for this book, either through other people they knew or, when I had no other way of reaching them, through their managers and publicists. Out of the 20 managers/agents/publicists I approached this way, only one actually came through. The funny thing is that some of the cast members I ended up interviewing for the book contacted me because they’d heard about the project, months AFTER their representatives told me flat out that their clients weren’t interested. Invariably, they said they’d never even been asked.

All this being the case, here are the options left to a writer who still wants to tackle a “making of” book, bless ’em:

Official or authorized books. Normally when somebody writes a book like this, they are in a position to have easy access to the cast and crew. That usually means they have a contract with a publisher that is owned by the same company that owns the show’s studio or network to write the book (an “official” or “authorized” book) . These arrangements usually mean that the author is given special access to the people involved in the making of the show. In exchange, the studio and/or network have final approval over what gets printed. In other words, there’s a good chance that anything not deemed complimentary to the show is frowned upon. Too often these books read a bit like press releases. This is not always the case, but I’ve invested a fair amount in books about TV and film over the years to be able to say that more often than not, the reader is left with the impression that they’re only getting half the story.

Books written by writers employed by big media organizations. In this instance, the author is employed by a mainstream entertainment publication like TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly, a big newspaper such as USA Today, or a trade publication such as Variety. In some ways, this leads to another type of “official” or “authorized” book, regardless of what it says on the cover. If your “day job” involves reporting on and interviewing TV stars, producers and showrunners, you’re far less likely to print something in your book that could be considered unflattering or “off message.” After all, you don’t want anything you write in your book to tick off the people you interviewed, because you run the risk of losing your access to them for your day job.

The unauthorized book. This is by far the most prevalent type of book out there. In this instance, the writer is on the outside looking in. Any access they have to cast and crew comes from reaching out to each individual involved with a show, one at a time. Because it’s not authorized by the studio or network, the cast member’s boss is not telling them to talk to you. And if your day job does not have you regularly interviewing stars for magazines and the like, the star’s manager is not going to tell their client that they should talk with you either, because it won’t lead to a magazine or newspaper story, which is what they really want. Looking back on it, that was the hardest lesson I had to learn.

On the plus side, if your book is unauthorized, you can afford to be honest with your writing. If there were problems behind the scenes, you can address those without worrying about offending the publisher or the show publicists. If you feel an episode was weak, you can address that, too, and explore why you think that is the case.

Another side benefit to writing the unauthorized book that I discovered: the people who speak with you are more likely to be candid in their memories and observations, because they know you won’t censor them.

Of course those of you who have already had the opportunity to read the book will know that though it addresses some of the behind-the-scenes problems, there’s little disguising the author’s love for the program. I’m a journalist by trade, but I’m a Gilmore Girls fan, too. I don’t think I could spend nearly three years researching a subject that wasn’t this close to my heart.

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  1. Corinna
    December 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Okay, I’m going to make a pretty good guess that the “had no interest in talking about Gilmore Girls anymore” is Lauren. It was kind of easy to figure out who was who lol. However, to be fair, Lauren did do the Entertainment Weekly reunion interview/photoshoot with Alexis as well as a video to boot. It’s not like she’s cut Gilmore Girls out of her life altogether. I think, more than anyone else, people want to talk to Lauren 24/7 about Gilmore Girls. Non-stop. They believe she is truly Lorelai Gilmore and want her to be their mom. I’m sure she has to be super picky and careful about not letting it take over her life, as well as her career (which would be truly sad for someone of her considerable talent). Obviously, I wish she had talked to you because that would be fun, but I can definitely understand her not being able to honor every request like this. Can’t wait to get the book!

    • December 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

      Hi Corinna, thanks for writing. I think being an actor is like being any other type of artist, especially a musician. If you get really popular, people always want to remember you for the material they enjoyed, and will ask you to perform it over and over again. (Like the singer who wants to debut new material but the audience only wants to hear the old hits.) After seven years playing one character, it’s easy to understand why they may want to go on to tackle new challenges. And I think that goes for talking about those old days, too. How boring it would be for them if they could not “leave it behind.”

      My goal for this posting was only to explain the behind-the-scenes wrangling that goes on; I think that occasionally people misunderstand how the media works. Though I would have loved to speak with the people mentioned, I sympathize with their situation, continue to admire them for their work, and remind myself that I’M the one asking for the favor when I approach anybody for an interview. It’s a very humbling experience. I’ve also thought many times that it must be a very scary thing to be interviewed about anything when much of your career hinges on what form your publicity will take. Those who were gracious enough to be interviewed will tell you that I gave them a couple of opportunities to see what would be printed before we went to press, as this seemed only fair. To their lasting credit, very few had any changes to suggest.

  2. Katka
    December 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I love this post, Aaron, you explained it well. Now I wonder who is “no.2”, it´s toss up between Lauren and Alexis.lol

    • December 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

      Thank you, Katka. Now I’m wondering if I’ve started a guessing game here; definitely not my intention 😉

  3. David
    December 23, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Interesting read… I wonder who wasn’t interested in talking about GG? I have my suspiscions but I’ll keep them to myself as I know you won’t divulge any of that. Really looking forward to reading the book!

    • December 23, 2010 at 11:17 am

      Thanks, David. I feel like I should always preface everything with “I’m in no way a Hollywood expert.” I spent a few years talking to people for this book, only a week in LA — but from what I’ve gathered, Hollywood is very small in a lot of ways. The last thing you want to do is “stick your head above the parapet” by giving interviews willy nilly unless it’s going to further your career.

      There are some EXTREMELY nice people in this business, but they also have to be tough on the inside. I don’t know of any other business where you can be employed one day and laid off the next, simply because your boss doesn’t like you, another person thinks you don’t look right for the part anymore, or somebody else thinks you’re not doing your behind-the-camera-job as good as their best friend, who they decide to replace you with. They have so much more to think about than me and my little book, which is cool. And who knows, there’s always the 25th anniversary book 🙂

    • Katka
      December 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

      yeah, sorry. I realized that I probably shouldn´t post it but I couldn´t find the delete button.

      • December 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

        Not at all, Katka. I’d be the same way. What’s the best way to send you a message, by the way? FB?

  4. Pamela Norman
    December 23, 2010 at 11:49 am

    and, I have to add, sitting in close proximity to the author of this book, he learned so much about the industry in researching and writing this book. There was also a lot of frustrations and exciting moments before and after he had an interview…it all shows in the stellar writing. Im very proud of my husband for taking this on… he is a pretty amazing fella. Enjoy the book, folks. Ive read it at least 6 times while designing it and each time I learned something new. 🙂

    • December 23, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      Stop it, you’re making me blush, P Norman 🙂

  5. Katka
    December 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Fb

    Aaron :
    Not at all, Katka. I’d be the same way. What’s the best way to send you a message, by the way? FB?

    FB is perfect.

  6. zoran
    December 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    It seems, right now, this is the place to be. 😉 I can definitely see a “Making of: The Gilmore Girls Companion” being in the works this very moment. Would you please agree with me, Aaron?

    • December 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm

      When have I ever dared not to agree with you, Zoran? 😉

      • zoran
        December 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

        You’re not denying it, interesting.

  7. Kathrin
    December 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    That was very interesting how the business works.
    Thanks for explaining everything.

    (And of course, I’m dying to know who named no.2 as a reason to not talk to you 😉 We’ll never know, and maybe that’s better that way, lol.)

    I can’t wait to read it. It will take a while, till I have it, though^^

    • December 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks, Kathrin. Sorry to hear about the delay with the book; I’m hoping it will be worth it, though 🙂

  8. December 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    zoran :

    You’re not denying it, interesting.

    Ha ha. There’s nothing more boring for a book’s subject matter than myself and my work stories, Zoran. You, on the other hand….

  9. zoran
    December 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Since you’re such an experienced writer and my life’s oh so interesting to you you’re very welcome to write my memoires. (It’s on you to figure out if I’m kidding or not. 😉 )

    • December 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm

      Ha! You run the risk of me just jotting a bunch of stuff and putting your name to it: The Life and Times of Zoran.

  10. zoran
    December 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    There’s enough exchange of e-mails between the two of us, that you could probably, easily do just that. (Somehow, this conversation is starting to give me the creeps.)

    • December 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

      Agreed.

  11. Skye
    December 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I’m also leaning towards Lauren being #2 – And I of course don’t expect for you to confirm or deny it.
    While I have deep respect for her as an actress, she has always come across as somewhat rude when asked questions about Gilmore within the past few years – I understand that that part of her life is over, and it has been for three years, but I don’t understand how participating in interviews or projects such as this book would hurt her career or hurt her personally. I’ve always sensed a sort of bitterness from her about the way GG ended – maybe that has something to do with it, but it just seems like she’s doing everything possible to just forget about her role as Lorelai Gilmore…. I would love to know how much negotiating had to be done to get her to agree to the EW’s Reunion Special.
    Sorry for that rant – thanks for this post!

  12. December 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Yeah, it’s one of those things you can really see from both sides. Again, it’s hard to have hard feelings about it; in the case of the book, it’s me asking a favor of a complete stranger. And after putting 15-plus hour days in on Gilmore for seven years, it’s certainly understandable that she might want to move on to new pastures. As for the EW reunion thing, I think it’s that magazine thing again (see posting) — it’s a timely reminder that she’s on another show, and I think it made sense for her to say yes to that. It also looks like it might’ve been fun 🙂

  13. Ele
    December 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    That was a very interesting read. Thanks Aaron. I also think #2 sounds like Lauren. And for #4 it would be very interesting if the person would actually be Amy. But I doubt it.

    I will definitely purchase the book once it’s avaiable on German Amazon. 🙂

  14. December 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I know it’s all a bit “inside baseball,” but too often I think we all assume that everybody knows what’s involved in what we do or where we are, no matter what your profession, country or project. One of the benefits of having a limitless space on which to share — cheers for that, WordPress 🙂

  1. December 29, 2010 at 7:50 am

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