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Are movie stars better at promoting indies?

Indie films are usually small-scale labors of love compared to all those soulless blockbusters and sequels — but does that mean the stars of these films promote them with any more elan?

A journalist source of mine who’s interviewed virtually every star on the planet, whether indie or not, tells me, “They’re people! They don’t go into another gear. The whole structure is talking about your project, so it’s the same either way. A lot of it depends on their personality. Some are outgoing and like the idea of press, while others are held back by their publicists because they feel they need to keep a low profile, seeing as there’s so much out there already — plus some people just aren’t good at it.”

An indie, my source admits, generally has more personal feeling involved, because a star “might do something that shoots in literally 10 days, the way Emily Blunt did with YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, which got a lot better attention and reviews than a big-budget flop like THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT. But she was giving interviews equally on them all. Emily is one of the people who will comment on things like her marriage and be more forthcoming, whether it’s indie or studio.”

For a lot of indies, the stars merely get paid SAG minimum while they’re filming, and if it gets sold, many times they agree to a percentage of the profits. That gives them the incentive to promote the hell out of these films, but trust me, they want to sell their blockbusters too. Making those biggies into hits is crucial because being known for a failed epic could ruin your career, while a derailed indie could be considered a noble failure that might actually have been too good to nab a crowd, which is not quite as damaging.

So it’s the same aggression all the way around, but a lot of stars wait till an indie film is picked up to hawk it. “Matthew McConaughey was not in Venice last year to promote KILLER JOE,” says my source, “probably because there was no sale yet, so there was no point in doing press for a movie that had nothing other than festival exposure at that time. Now he’s doing press for it.”

And indie press situations are generally more intimate than you’d find with a bigger film. Says my source, “For Woody Allen’s TO ROME WITH LOVE, the studio set up a press conference, but when Greta Gerwig promoted the smaller LOLA VERSUS, she did roundtables and went from room to room.

“Two years ago,” he adds, “Gwyneth Paltrow did roundtables for COUNTRY STRONG. That was a small film compared to IRON MAN II.” But either way, she was still Gwyneth — and still a good interview.

The down side of indie promotion comes when there virtually is no promotion. Says my journo friend: “You have to consider interest. The Duplass brothers did that adorable movie THE DO-DECA PENTATHLON and they didn’t even come into New York to do press on it. I was shocked that they didn’t even bring them in for a day.”

Ah, well. I guess that’s the price of doing a low-budget labor of love.