Every time a particular occupation is portrayed in a movie, members of that profession tend to complain about it:
A lawyer would never do such a thing!No cop is going to do that!
What real doctor would make that decision?
Do they really expect us to believe a pawn shop manager and part-time clown juggler would really do a thing like that?
Well, you get the idea.
Since there are many jobs the average Joe and Joanne don't know a lot about, moviemakers tend to think they can slip one over on us from time to time.
But there's one profession that frequently pops up in movies that all of us see in action almost every day - yet moviemakers continue to show it in ways that are so preposterous we laugh with derision.
I'm speaking of TV newspeople.
Think about it. Even if you aren't personally acquainted with the insides of the business, you see anchors reading stories and reporters doing interviews - and you know what they look and sound like.
Now, honestly, how often have you seen movies where a reporter or anchor doing a story on TV looks or sounds like a newsperson you've ever seen?
The most recent glaring example is Clint Eastwood's "The Rookie," which has a scene where a TV reporter is interviewing maverick cop Eastwood live on the scene of a crime. Eastwood begins spouting a lengthy stream of profanities and is simply allowed to continue. The reporter drops her jaw but doesn't attempt to stop him and no one at the studio cuts away. After Eastwood finishes his tirade, the reporter blithely turns to the anchor with a standard, "Back to you."
Acknowledging that this specific scene is intended as comic, the exaggeration is so silly it undermines the credibility of other things in the film as well - not that anything in "The Rookie" is particularly credible to begin with.
The point, of course, is that it seems natural to expect filmmakers to research any profession they portray in a movie - even if it just means watching a newscast closely.
So it was that I was impressed with KUTV anchor/reporter Alexis Fernandez, who had a bit part as - what else? - a news anchor in the locally filmed Michael Cimino picture "Desperate Hours," which had a national release in October.
Fernandez, who has two very brief moments in the film (with fellow anchor Bob Evans glimpsed even more briefly), is shown on a TV screen and seems very natural and realistic, reading a news story that actually sounds like a real news story. (It has to do with escaped killer Mickey Rourke, who is holding a Salt Lake family hostage in its own home.)
But don't credit the screenwriters of that awful movie for this small piece of credibility - credit Fernandez herself.
"I had to audition," Fernandez said, explaining that she was called by the film's casting assistant, Cate Praggastis, who is also a friend, saying director Michael Cimino ("The Deer Hunter," "Heaven's Gate," "Year of the Dragon") wanted a real newsperson, not an actress, and he specifically asked for a brunette.
"They gave me this script to read, but it was poor television writing. And the news director (at Ch. 2) said the only way we could participate was if the movie showed us as legitimate newspeople. So often movies show us as dolts, you know, stupid, sensational characters. And this was pretty straightforward - but it was bad writing.
"So I said to one of the women there, `Do you think it's OK if I change this a little bit?' She said not to, but I doodled with it, and when I met with Cimino, I said, `You know, Michael, I was reading over this and I was just wondering if we could change a few things.' And he said, `How would you change it?' And I showed him and he said, "OK, fine, you're hired.' "
Fernandez laughs about the experience, saying she was surprised how serious everyone was about it all. She says she enjoyed herself, but it's not something she'd want to repeat on a regular basis. "I went up there (to the University Park Hotel, where the production crew was based) and everything had to be just perfect. They dress you in one room, you go into another room where Cimino is looking at everything - earrings, watches, the shoulder pads weren't right."
The actual filming only took a few minutes - and it was done on the Ch. 2 news set. "We had to show up at five in the morning for wardrobe, makeup and hair, and it was nice because you could sit on your own set. Then we had to shoot about 7, after the early show. And we did a run-through, and then we did it a second time. I thought the second time was still a kind of rehearsal, but that was it - we were through."
So, after the film came out, how did Fernandez feel about her own performance.
"Oh, I didn't see it. But maybe I'll pick it up when it comes out on video."
I suggested she wait a few months after it comes out - when it's available for $10 or less in a "previously viewed" video bin.