Monday 23 April 2018

‘I’ve taken Tom Cruise for a pint and been chased by a dinosaur with Chris Pratt’ – meet the Irish woman forging dream career in film PR

Maryse Fitzpatrick is International Publicity Director with Universal Pictures

Maryse at the BAFTAs
Maryse at the BAFTAs
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Maryse Fitzpatrick spends much of her time hanging around with Hollywood A-listers, whether it's taking Tom Cruise for a pint of Guinness or being chased by a dinosaur around a car park with Jurassic World star Chris Pratt.

Originally from Portlaoise, Maryse (36) has been based in London for the past three and a half years in her role as International Publicity Director for Universal Pictures.  Here she fills us in on her journey to landing her covetable job, what exactly the role entails, and what was going on in that car park...

How did you get into flim PR?

"There was no degree course in Ireland for Public Relations back in the dark ages when I started so I did a diploma course with the PRII (Public Relations Institute of Ireland), followed by another PRII Event Management diploma.

Maryse walking ahead of Jake Gyllenhaal in Venice for Nocturnal Animals
Maryse walking ahead of Jake Gyllenhaal in Venice for Nocturnal Animals

"My first job was for Sony Computer Entertainment Ireland (PlayStation) from 2002 to 2006. I started out as Marketing and PR Executive and progressed to PR, Sponsorship & Events Manager over the course of my time there. It was an amazing start to any career but particularly within the entertainment industry. The PS2 had just been released, gaming was at its peak, the PlayStation brand was one of the most recognisable in the world.

"For my next role, I was lucky enough to be part of the management team that established the Universal Pictures Ireland office in 2006. I’d always wanted to work in film. It was the dream job. One I thought I’d never get, the industry was notoriously hard to break into. But the office was led by the young and dynamic Dave Burke, a trailblazer in his own right, one who didn’t shy away from taking a chance on hiring an enthusiastic but green 25 year old for such a big role.

Michael Fassbender on the red carpet at BAFTA.
Michael Fassbender on the red carpet at BAFTA.

"He actually tasked me with doing launch plans for three films as part of the interview process. I sacrificed my Electric Picnic ticket to spend the weekend working on them, something I’ve reminded him of on numerous occasions over the years. It was the best decision I ever made and resulted in one of the most incredible experiences of my career to date.

"We curated some really memorable events and tours over the years including American Pie Reunion, Bridesmaids, Knocked Up, This Is 40, Couple’s Retreat, Get Him To The Greek, Kick Ass, Contraband, In Bruges.

Seth Rogen and Zac Efron at a Bad Neighbours press day in LA.
Seth Rogen and Zac Efron at a Bad Neighbours press day in LA.

"But the pinnacle has to be the 2013 Oblivion/Tom Cruise tour. It was the biggest premiere event ever seen in Ireland and actually won the Best Event Design Award at the Irish Event Industry Awards. O’Connell St came to an absolute standstill as Tom Cruise signed autographs for over three hours on the red carpet. During the day we’d curated a series of events, he was presented with his certificate of Irish heritage by the then Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, he ventured to Guinness, as is customary, and he’d been the guest of honour at a reception with the Irish Film Board. Each event achieved global publicity coverage. It was one of those pinch yourself moments.

"After that I was promoted internally at Universal Pictures and relocated to our head office in London to take on the role of International Publicity Director. I’ve been in this position for three and half years."

Maryse's Venice Film Festival badge
Maryse's Venice Film Festival badge

What does your job involve?

"I oversee international publicity campaigns in my current role.

Tom Hiddleston on the red carpet in Rome for Crimson Peak.
Tom Hiddleston on the red carpet in Rome for Crimson Peak.

"We do a lot of promotional tours, TV shows, premieres and film festival screenings to support movie releases. So there’s a lot of planning and logistics involved on a global level. Every film is different so every film gets a bespoke strategy.

"And every day is different. That’s genuinely true. You could find me anywhere, at any time, doing anything! From attending a screening in the Vatican with the Pope and Angelina Jolie to ripping my trousers at the BAFTAs with Sir Stephen Hawking to being chased by a dinosaur in a carpark with Chris Pratt. All of which have happened."

Maryse with a BAFTA mask
Maryse with a BAFTA mask

What are the perks?

"The most obvious perk is travel. I’ve seen the world with this job. I’ve been to China, Japan, Russia, all over Europe and the US. Most of which is done with the added luxury of private jets and 5 star hotels, not that that is my real life - I still have to go home to my normal house!

Chris Pratt on the red carpet in Paris for Jurassic World
Chris Pratt on the red carpet in Paris for Jurassic World

"Also, the product itself. We get to work on such a wide variety of genres, from Jurassic World to Boyhood. You never get bored.

"Finally, the people. I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with some of the most incredibly talented people in this industry. Just a couple of months ago I was in Paris with Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. It just doesn’t get better than that!"

What are the challenges?

Matt Damon on the red carpet for the Jason Bourne premiere in London.
Matt Damon on the red carpet for the Jason Bourne premiere in London.

"It’s pretty intense in terms of the time commitment you have to give to a job like this. Constant travelling, weekend work on tours and festivals, red carpet premieres in the evenings. It’s hard to find the time to have a personal life! You’re also constantly 'on'. The day in LA, where the studio is based, is just beginning when our day in London is winding down."

Which skills do you think serve you best in this job?

"You need to be a quick thinker in this job. You need to know how to problem solve. Things change all the time, and usually at the last minute. You need to be diplomatic. You need to be able to get shit done as they say. And not take no for an answer."

A private jet
A private jet

What kind of person would NOT suit this job?

"Someone who needs routine, structure and order. They’d find it sheer hell!"

How do you find working with Hollywood stars?

Nocturnal Animals press conference in Venice.
Nocturnal Animals press conference in Venice.

"I deal with Hollywood stars all the time. It’s part of my job. I’ve always found the Irish accent works in my favour, the Americans love us. They’ve usually found some Irish ancestry in their bloodline too.

Can they be difficult?

"A lot of the time when someone is difficult, it stems from the team they have around them - publicists, agents, stylists, hair, make-up, assistants, security etc. The list is endless. The bigger the entourage, the bigger the problem. That’s the general rule of thumb."

Venice Film Festival red carpet.
Venice Film Festival red carpet.

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to follow in your footsteps?

"Do anything to get your foot in the door. Intern. Torment the local studios on a regular basis, make sure they have your CV on file and they know who you are and how enthusiastic you are. Send cupcakes. Stand out."

What are some of the misconceptions about your job? 

"There are so many! Mainly that it’s non-stop glamour. It really isn’t."

How has the industry changed since you started out, if at all?  Are there new challenges that come with those changes?

"Companies like Netflix and Amazon are producing incredible content on different platforms. People no longer consume media in the same way. There are new challenges in terms of reaching audiences, particularly youth audiences who are more invested in YouTube stars than Hollywood stars. The rise of social influencers is indicative of that.

"The industry is constantly evolving, we need to do the same when it comes to our publicity efforts."

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