Release date: 5 April 2003 (USA)
Director: Daniel Algrant
Producers: Michael Nozik, Leslie Urdang, Karen Tenkhoff
Production companies: Wildwood Enterprises, Myriad Pictures, Pacific Data Images, South Fork Pictures
Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola
Our old great friend Eli Wurman, one of the great publicists in New York, has put together a fantastic night. Lots of celebrities. He really made a mark.
Publicists are usually influential people in the community. Over time, they would have worked with a myriad of clients and as such, they know how to reach out to make people across all spectra of the society. In recent studies, there are three degrees of separation within a shared “interest” or social group. It has been discovered that people are usually a part of three main networks: family, friendship, and work.
In the movie, People I know. We see the life of an aging, burnt-out Jewish publicist, Eli Wurman, played by Al Pacino, who has grown so much in the profession. Having graduated from Harvard Law School #4 in his class, he found out that doing publicity for his favorite cause, improving race relations, was more effective than being a top-flight civil lawyer or advocate. This drama delves into the high-powered world of New York politics, media, and celebrityhood. I will consider some things that I consider the hallmark of being a Publicist as shown by Eli Wurman-
Eli Wurman described him as the Publicist that invests in friend’s shows. He has handled a lot of events for clients over the years. There is virtually no publicist who would not have dealt with Event Management in the course of his career. You are expected to plan alongside your clients, draft the guest list, reach out to them, confirm their attendance, and reach out to vendors, among others. These are the various activities that we see the team of Eli Wurman engaged in towards the event that they had the intention to organize. In one event, the client wants to know those who were at the show- Cary Launer, Scavullo, Betty Bacall, Pat Lawford. When the client said he did not see any of these people there, the Publicist told him to look over there and started reeling out the names again. He insisted that he wants to Regus and Joy for the second day of the show.
The work of the publicist also entails writing. Eli was a columnist and because of his desire to always feature his clients across various platforms, he was someone who always monitored the news wherever he found himself. Equally, in the last few scenes, he was seen checking the dailies at the vendor’s stand to know the reports of the day. He is always interested in the news.
A good publicist is a trusted advisor. While monitoring the television news report on the show, “FlyPaper” he was agitated at the description of the show by the newscaster. He mentioned he advised the client to change the name of the show ab initio. However, the decision of the client led to a negative review in the media.
Sometimes publicists have a decline in the number of clients that they have. Maybe there is a new set of agencies that have attracted them; the client might believe that they have had enough or they disagree over some issues. For Eli, he was a legendary figure whose time handling the big players is fast disappearing. He had handled different celebrities such as Monty Cliff, and Mama Cass, amongst others.
Antecedents usually elicit a lot of memories for everyone, but that of the Publicist might be said to always haunt him. That was the case between Cary Launer played by Ryan O’Neal and Eli Wurman. Launer was his longstanding client, and he wants him to help wipe out a “mess” of his escapade with TV starlet Jilli played by Tea Leoni), a hard-shelled, quick-tongued television actress with a soft centre and a taste for illegal drugs. She took him to an exclusive Wall Street party where opium is used. There, Wurman was surprised to bump into billionaire Elliot Sharansky (Richard Schiff). He saw other makers and shakers in the world of power in both politics and big business doing what they are not supposed to be doing: drugs, sex, and making under-the-table deals that affect countless lives. Eventually, Julli was assassinated the following morning.
Publicists usually have a social cause that they stand for. In Wurman’s case, he did not take care of his health. He was concerned about the arrested Nigerians, and their possible deportation because of their involvement in INS roundup. In his assertion, the town used to open up. It’s become a police state. According to him, “Black people under this mayor and under this government taught to fear us ad hate us.” Many Publicists across the globe get consumed by defending their clients and ensuring that their reputation is jealously managed at the expense of their health.
Wurman was described as some who know a lot of things and really, he does. He castigated his staff for reading only Entertainment Weekly and for not knowing Elliot Sharansky, a huge-money guy.
Revd Blunt played by Bill Nunn, is a black activist and one of the Harlem Forces can be likened to Revd Martin Luther King. He speaks about civil liberties and the constitution. He noted that “Our children cannot move freely through the streets, they round up young black men and throw the keys away. This is a Warsaw ghetto, and it is being ignored.” Wurman tried to convince Reverend Lyle Blunt to attend the event and speak out for persecuted people of color. He also wants Sharansky to come, but this powerful civic leader has had several run-ins with the minister. As typical of every publicist, there is an uneasy feeling when your client does not know the value of what he has at hand, most especially in the engagement of the media and opinion writers. He said to Revd Blunt, “What you need is exposure, you need to be heard below 125th street. You need to be heard all the way from Oakland to Washington. Publicity. That’s what you need. Otherwise, you are gonna be another babbling voice in the dark.”
As he was speaking to Revd Blunt, he gave a quick case study of his walk with Revd King. He mentioned that Revd King held his hands, and they walked through the fire! This inversely shows that before we can effectively convince a client, we need to have excellent case studies of what they have done in times past and the outcome. A Publicist needs to give copious examples if he wants to convince a potential client.
In the same vein, the Cary hailed Eli as “Dr. Publicity in Action!”.He mentioned his aspiration for the US Senate to Eli. He intended that as an actor, he would be able to feature on prominent TV shows, namely Nightline and Larry King Live! What this depicts in the life of a publicist is that he should know the audience that best projects his client to the target audience. However, on the flip side, the client might not have a detailed understanding of what is the best media exposure for him.
As Cary was thinking of dumping him for a young publicist, he made him know that the scars in his journey, most especially the recent flirt with Julli can lead to a damaging headline like “Starlet’s last binge with movie star/Senator Lothario. Other scars seen with the stars in the movie include drug addiction and an excessive desire for power amongst others.
Eli won the admiration of many for the event that he organized and, most importantly, for bringing Cary to the event. Eli pulls off a successful event surrounded by these individuals. Unfortunately, his success is comprehended after the people who made it a success killed him.
The brutally honest and shocking movie is about those in power and how they use that power to control the lives of millions of people from top elected politicians and Wall Street executives to the rank and file working men and women and how far they would go to keep and hold on to their power. The movie is based on two days of his crazy life, the day of the event and the day before, making contacts and favors, ‘kissing asses’, using drugs, etc.
Great Quotes from the Movie-
Good manners make for good memories, bad manners make for goodbyes
Control is very important because, without it, there is indiscretion- Elli Wurman
Just back me up, don’t cut me down- Eli Wurman
What you need is exposure, you need to be heard below 125th street. You need to be heard all the way from Oakland to Washington. Publicity. That’s what you need. Otherwise, you are gonna be another babbling voice in the dark- Elli Wurman
But you do not have a voice below 125th street, won’t it be nice if you were heard all the way down on Wall Street? Eli Wurman
It is not about elections. Politicians come and go. It is about people who are powerless- Eli Wurman
You are always going to need someone to pick up the piece you leave in your wake and they have to be someone with no real centre and no real soul. Someone who’ll do absolutely anything and then cover it up- Eli Wurman
What you need is exposure, you need to be heard below 125th street. You need to be heard all the way from Oakland to Washington. Publicity. That’s what you need. Otherwise, you are gonna be another babbling voice in the dark. -Eli Wurman
We have got stars; these days they’re the only ones who catch the light
Competition is strong, Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter- Eli Wurman
I am a PR guy, that’s what I do! I get items in papers; I suck up to celebrities-Eli Wurman
Please find below the link to the thriller of the movie-