- At the BAFTA awards, being held Sunday, red carpet arrivals can be likened to a swanky meal
- Young and upcoming actors can get noticed during the appetizers
- But the Clooneys, Streeps and Pitts of the industry belong to the dessert
- In a year the menu will be different -- but the appetite will remain healthy
The arrivals themselves can be likened to a meal at a swanky restaurant. The red carpet is the table, upon which a series of delicious dishes are to be served up.
The media take their places at the table, and there's a pecking order. British television outlets get pride of place at the top table (we try to tuck in beside them). At the bottom end of the table the "Press Cluster 17" fight over the crumbs -- the D-list celebrities no-one else wants to talk to, or the stars who have exhausted their supply of witty one-liners during an hour of answering the same handful of inane questions.
First to arrive are the appetizers. This is a good time for young and upcoming actors to get noticed. A particularly swanky dress can help the paparazzi serve eager picture desks with an early photograph. But among the appetizers you'll often find an unexpected tasty morsel -- a big star who heads down the carpet early, perhaps to spend more time with his or her fans, perhaps to find the location of the bar. Either way, their presence is a good stomach-settler. We've got one name in the bag at least.
Next is the main course. This is a sushi-like conveyor belt of dishes, arriving one after another in rapid succession. At this point the meal loses all sense of dignity as it quickly descends into a feeding frenzy at an eat-all-you-can buffet. It's important to exercise some self-restraint, lest you find yourself munching on one tasty treat while another more mouth-watering offer comes along.
Harvey Weinstein's films may dominate the awards and he may have fascinating insights into their production but do you really want to be stuck talking to Harvey as George Clooney and Meryl Streep saunter past your camera on their weary way towards Press Cluster 17?
The Clooneys, Streeps and Pitts should belong to the dessert, the delicious creamy offerings which you always knew were on the menu but couldn't prevent you gorging on other famous fare while awaiting their arrival.
If they turn up too late with little time before the event begins, then the maitre d, often in the form of a seasoned senior PR dominatrix, will make the dreaded call: "Just one question between the five of you," causing everyone to huddle even closer. At this point I get more intimate than I would wish with the man from the BBC and the lady from Sky. Everyone thrusts forward their microphones and long arms are a boon here as we experience the conditions under which the resilient stalwarts of Press Cluster 17 have labored all evening.
And then suddenly it's all over, and there is no more food. The tablecloth is whipped off as the red carpet is almost immediately cut up and dragged away and the journalists scuttle off too, heading back to the bureaus in a desperate attempt to avoid the washing-up. In CNN's case, the washing-up falls to our ever-patient engineer JJ, who uncomplainingly starts the job of reeling in the cables and packing up the satellite truck.
We spend the next few hours regurgitating the results of the awards ceremony before finally delivering them in an edited, easily digestible format to be viewed around the globe online, on mobiles or on television.
In another 12 months the menu will be different -- the faces and films will change -- but the appetite for one of the world's most dazzling film awards events will remain a healthy one.