Whilst cinemas sadly spent a lot of 2020 shuttered to the public, there was certainly no shortage of brilliant TV and film available at home for audiences to immerse themselves into for some much-welcomed escapism. With each new release often come the bells and whistles of a publicity campaign and accompanying junket that people have made happen from their makeshift home office, battling sporadic Wi-Fi and subsequent frozen faces, multiple time zones and most likely a colossal amount of emails.
It’s not all Zoom and gloom however, as the switch to digital ‘junketing’ brings with it a number of positives (and not just the joy of snooping at the home decor choices of our favourite directors.) The necessary transition away from traditional face-to-face talent interviews to online interaction has eliminated the need for interviewee and interviewer to be in the same country, let alone the same room, and as a result the pool of opportunity inevitably opens out.
Whilst talent and creativity can be found in every corner of the country, when it comes to the promotional cycle for a film or TV show London is the epicenter and if you’re a journalist based in a different part of the UK, the chances are you’re going to have to drag yourself into the capital to cover a junket and likely a screening beforehand too. The London-centric nature of the industry is understandably a frustration to many, particularly journalists looking to break into the industry whilst based elsewhere. With location being out of the equation, it’s one less barrier for journalists in the other part of the country to deal with and editors can be more open-minded when it comes to commissioning journalists to cover interviews.
An additional positive of the current circumstances is newly available access to talent that may not usually partake in many interviews or travel to the UK as part of the traditional press tour. Making a film or TV show is no mean feat and requires an extraordinary level of human input to get remotely off the ground, let alone finished. Whilst cinematographers, composers, editors, producers and many more are instrumental to the success of a creative onscreen project, they’re not always incorporated into the travelling press tour so in some cases the shift to digital interviewing has resulted in a bigger focus on behind-the-camera creatives. Additionally, in the early stages of the pandemic in particular (before COVID filming protocols were in place and the whole industry had ground to a halt) talent involved in all areas of filmmaking simply had more time on their hands to speak to press about their projects past, present and future.
It will be interesting to see how long virtual junkets will stick around once we are safely able to resume face-to-face interviews. Many in the industry will be looking forward to the return of in-person interviewing (powered by complimentary hotel junket coffee), favouring the more human interview dynamic and rapport which is no doubt easier to establish when sharing a physical space. However, the comparative logistical ease on which digital interviews can be conducted and being able to do them from the comfort of their own home means that virtual junkets may continue to be a convenient alternative option for some.
Though we could all be forgiven for resenting them a touch from time to time, platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, Squadcast etc have been completely invaluable tools that have allowed the industry to adapt during such a challenging, ever-changing and (for want of a better word) unprecedented time. Regardless of preference between in-person vs virtual junkets, the mere existence of online communication services has allowed this element of the promotional cycle to continue so publications and outlets can keep creating great interview content for us to read, watch and enjoy.