Ok, let’s get this over and done with. The world of A___ has already moved on – to Madrid, and further, I suppose – while I am still stuck in the impressions of my own fangirling experience at the European Hobbit Premiere in Berlin. It takes time to digest everything – to think it over and to come to some kind of conclusion. I’ve written a report for me+richard which focussed on the essentials: observing Mr A at the red carpet, my alienated participation in that, and a first response. However, much more went on. After all, it was a whole day spent waiting for the event to begin – and I am not even talking about the run-up to it, the booking of flights, the designing of a poster, missing my initial flight and the subsequent turmoil. If you want a real look at the goings-on, here is my timeline of the whole day, pretty much warts and all. [Sorry, really long]
8.30 am: A buzz wakes me up. Not a good buzz. It’s the telephone. UtePirat tells me that the queuing has started. I wake my friend D___. Never have we been dressed and up as fast… Thermos with tea goes in the bag, as do a few sandwiches.
10 am: Arrival at Potsdamer Platz S-Bahn station. On the way up into Sony Center I spot a stationary shop. Quick thinking on my feet: Need some sticky tape to fix prepared poster to the railings. Buy some “power strips”, pre-empting Warner Bros thugs to rip posters down from their precious advertising.
10.10 am: We surface from the underground arcades right behind the red carpet railings. A quick scan reveals: All railing spots already taken. Mood plunges down. Where is the German lot? We aimlessly start wandering towards Sony Center centre. I pull out my phone to ring UtePirat, mumbling loudly “I must ring Ute”. A woman standing beside me gives me a suspicious look. It is Ute. Duh.
10.15 am: Ute leads me to the German board spot. Four ladies have bagged a spot in second row *meh* but right beside a bench *yeah*. They’ve held out since 7.30 am already. We make introductions and join them.
10.30 am: First re-con of the premiere site. The red carpet is covered under plastic sheeting to shelter against the drizzle. There are security suits everywhere who are friendly enough but can not answer my question regarding the Warner Bros press office sufficiently. Where is German efficiency when you need it? Security man number 2 eventually points me to a black tent. No press people there yet. I take a few pictures of the site so far. We repair back to our fan base.
10.40 am: The German RArmy thinks my poster is insufficient because it is in German. Ha! Deliberately so! I am counting on Mr A’s curiosity. The idea is that he will recognise the words “A___ Army” – and then wonder what the rest may mean. It is a literal translation of the sign that my fangirling role model AwkwardCelebrityEncounters took to the Tornado-movie site where she met RA. It means A___ Army cannot keep calm. But most of all the sign is meant to show him where some of his German fans are placed.
11 am: I want to sit down. But the bench is wet. Nothing that a photographer isn’t equipped for: We always carry a refuse sack in our equipment bag. For spreading on the ground in unfavourable conditions – for instance when making pictures of mushrooms. Or ants. Or covered up red carpets. Also comes in handy when you don’t want to get your bum wet.
11.15 am: Waiting
11.20 am: Linda60 turns up. Yay.
11.30 am: Waiting
11.45 am: Waiting (you get the picture)
12 pm: Four and a half hours still to go. *sighs*
12.30 pm: This is ridiculous. I am far too old for this shit.
12.45 pm: I feel like a teenager. I have been thrown back to my sporting times when I was so excited that I couldn’t eat all day before a race. I can go to the toilet, though. Off to Starbum’s for the loo a cup of chai latte.
12.50 pm: Major crisis. Only one toilet in Starbum’s. And 15 girls queuing. Ah, at least an opportunity to connect with other lunatics fans. A girl from England has made a fabulous Smaug outfit. There are fans from Spain, Holland, all over Europe. Hold on, the loo queue has moved an it is my turn next. Desaster strikes: The loo has run out of toilet paper. Literal bummer. In that case I will not buy a chai latte in return. Starbum’s sends emergency delivery of loo roll. I reconsider my refusal to buy a drink in Starbum’s.
1 pm: Last try at finding the press office. Still no sign of them. That’s it. I have made up my mind – fangirling is more fun among fangirls rather than with cynical, macho photographers who will judge me on the size of my appendages lenses.
1.05 pm: Back at base. Get a scolding from Linda60 and UtePirat who have been fighting tooth and nail for our spot. From now on no more than one person may leave the fan base at any one time. We exercise our elbows and our verbal defenses by engaging the Spanish contingent next to us in a turf war. We were here first. Back off.
1.10 pm – 2.30 pm: We are asserting our presence by surreptitiously edging further to the left and right. I continuously keep my left should defensively stuck into the young woman’s face to my left. Until she sweetly offers me to come closer. I feel bad and start a conversation. “So who are you here for?” A chorus of four voices chimes “R___ A___!” Arrrrrgh – sistahs in RA, and I have been bullying them with my left shoulder. We quickly bond but it takes another quarter of an hour until we realise that I “know” two of them from tumblr!!! I have even exchanged messages with “richards-smile” as she was my secret Valentine earlier this year. Cod, the world is so small. We have a great time chatting and entertaining each other with all sorts of trivia and info about the object of our fangirling.
3 pm: More waiting. I test the suitability of our spot for taking pictures. Strategically, this is the business: I can stand on the bench easily overlooking two rows of fangirls at the railings in front of me. Well, if I am honest, I could do that while standing on the ground – they are pleasantly short. But from up there I get an unrestricted view of anyone who should happen to stand on the red carpet. A row of spotlights is illuminating the red carpet on our spot from above. Great for light. Plus I get a view of who is making their way up from the beginning of the red carpet. Bonus: The other side of the red carpet only has space for one row of people. We’ll be the throng that can’t be ignored.
3.05 pm: Three and a half hours to go.
4 pm: Waiting. A nice, young woman steps on the bench behind me and edges closer, disclosing herself as a Cumberbatch fan.
4.15 pm: If I should ever fly to New Zealand I will make it Air New Zealand. They have sent their air hostesses down the red carpet with free coffee and hot chocolates and they are handing out nice cards for collecting autographs on. Bonus: The image on the front of the autograph card is the House of Durin in all its splendour: Fili, Thorin and Kili. UNF.
5.30 pm: My feet are cold. It is drizzling continuously. I have had it. I am going home.
5.31 pm: Just joking.
6 pm: We’re nearly there. I know that because there are more people vying for our coveted spot. Some nasties have already placed one foot on the bench. I am firmly planted up there, and have made friends with the nice Cumberbabe behind me on the bench. She’s my living, breathing Oakenshield. In return I’ll take some pictures of Cumberbatch for her. The first invited guests arrive. I don’t recognise anyone. Are these just German C-celebrities or have I simply lost touch with the German entertainment business??
6.30 pm: The event is starting. I get my camera ready – a few test shots and I decide to shoot without flash for the beginning, cranking up the ISO instead and deciding later to switch to flash. The German presenters are babbling, and all of sudden there is massive excitement. Martin Freeman has just zoomed past us. What? Where? How? I didn’t even see a flash of blond hair???
And now we are rolling. I spot Dan Hannah, production designer for the Hobbit. Then Philippa Boyens. I am focussed on her and nearly miss Mama A___ and family walking past. Then that must mean… And yes – there is the first glimpse. Elvis A___ is in the building. I spot his dark head ten metres down the red carpet. The realisation hits me like a fist in my stomach. OMG OMG OMG. I click away. Trying to get A___ in my viewfinder. UtePirat has taken on the responsibility of holding the sign. My friend D___ is on autograph duty. A___ comes closer. Chatting to fans, smiling, signing autographs, posing for photos for and with fans.
I click away. Stupid sign is in my line of vision. Who had the shitty idea of making such a big sign? RA keeps his head down, moving along the railings. I am frantically looking through the viewfinder, framing, focussing, holding, releasing the shutter. No time to check on the screen whether and what I am capturing. Whoa!!! What was that? I think he just looked up. He looked directly into the camera. Well, the camera is hard to ignore, massive big thing, plus I am way up above the others in front of me. Clickclickclick, look up, Armitage, look up again, but no, he is keeping his head down because he has to sign sign sign the autograph sheets that are held out to him.
And off he goes. In a flash he is past us. Half obscured by people between me and him, I still click away, without much plan, just shooting. When he crosses the red carpet to sign on the other side, I remember one of Serv’s posts after the LA Premiere – somebody remembered to take a picture from behind. I shoot off a series of shots to catch the peaches cut of the suit.
And then he vanishes from our line of sight, but I am in shooting mode and the line of actors walking up the red carpet doesn’t end. Martin Freeman has returned and does his autograph run now. After him Ed Sheeran. Peter Jackson takes his time and chats and poses. Next up is Adam Brown – what an expressive face. Such a cheerful fella. He looks up at me and smiles widely. Followed by his pal Graham McTavish – very impressive man. He gives Adam a hearty man-hug which I just about capture. Sylvester McCoy. Ken Stott (the man with the most legible autograph!) My countryman Aidan Turner turns up. Erin go bragh!!! And who should be with him but “brother” Deano. Aidan smiles very sweetly at everyone, interrupted by a joking Dean O’Gorman.
And then Benedict Cumberbatch. I take more images of him than of anyone else – even more than A___ – because he takes his time. He makes my evening, btw, because just as he stops in front of me, my friend D___ prompts him to look up at me. He stops, looks up, poses with a smile. As I take down my camera, he sweetly says “Thank you!” I gratefully smile back at him, shaking my head, emphasising “No, thank *you*”, and he insists a second time: “Thank you!” What a charming, man – a media pro, though. Andy Serkis signs away. Finally, the only woman on the show makes her way towards us, Evangeline Lilly. Very pretty, very smily, very nice, reacting to the fans and signing away. I am so focussed on her that I nearly miss Orlando Bloom – but then again, I think he misses us, too.
7.30 pm: Boom, and that is the end. The stars have passed through, the throng very quickly clears. We are all in a daze. Was that it? What is happening now? Interviews have been going on, I have heard A___’s voice over the tannoy, but I have no idea what he has been saying. Someone says something about A___’s suit. And I sudddenly realise that I have no idea what he looked like. In fact I have no recollection of the one minute it took him to pass through my line of vision. At all. I have a vague idea that I noticed his nice hair, and how his eyelashes fanned out on his cheeks while he was concentrating on signing autographs. The others tell me now that Armitage’s assistant had spotted our sign and pointed it out to Armitage. RA paused and looked up. Then asked what it meant. *fistpump* Yes – just what I wanted. Apparently his to female companions took photos of it.
7.45 pm: D___ and I are cool. But not in the right way. Cold from the day waiting in the drizzle We just want to get away. Old and weary bones. And a lot swirling around in our heads.
And so the event ends. When we get home, we hardly talk about the event. My brain is only processing what we have just observed and I notice that I find it hard to actually declare whether it was good or bad or what. While I usually can’t wait to pass on my opinion to the RArmy, I feel strangely detached and silent on the issue. But I write a note to myself to commit the fresh memory to posterity:
Berlin – 9/12/2013, 11.45 pm
The main thing is that he has become real – which makes the fantasy figure difficult.There is a living, breathing individual behind the pretty images I see every day, who has moods and thoughts and a life.
I am trying to come to terms with my decision to be behind the camera and work. The Event passed me by – R___ passed me by. I did not live the event, I worked it, and I have no reccollection of the moment he was there, really, apart from the pics on my camrea. At the exact time it was happening, I was concentraitng on shapes and arrangements, on aperture and shutter speed, and I did not think to look up and say “hello R___” or ask him a question or just simply look at him and observe…
I am pleased, though, that he did notice my sign that UtePirat had agreed to hold up. He turned to the red carpet assistant to ask what it meant – no idea whether she translated correctly. And before you ask – yes, it was deliberate that I wrote the sign in German, because I *wanted* him to stop and ask. Preferably us rather than the assistant, though, and certainly not the two foreign girls in front of us who did not have a clue…
I realise I have no idea what he really looked like close-up – because I didn’t see him. I was photographing some skin and hair and blue eyes at the time *ggg*. He did not really stop and interact. Although – he actually noticed me with my camera – I was standing on a bench above the rest of the crowd, and he looked up, straight at the camera. And what happened? Yeah, guess what – I fucked it up. I am disappointed with my photos – the high ISO has resulted in grainy images, and the large aperture meant that the image is out of focus most of the time because the subject was not holding still. So even in the post-event evaluation the photographer takes over from the fangirl and determines the final conclusion.
And maybe that is why I am so strangely detached and definitely post partum about the event – I didn’t get the pics that I wanted, and that irks me and annoys me. I am not blaming Mr A. Well, a little bit. He was too fast, he could not get through it fast enough, and that made it doubly difficult… Plus, I am pissed off with myself for having decided on the wrong approach. I was caught on the wrong foot, essentially – he turned up too early, I had not expected him. I was going to do a few test shots with flash and without – but then he was already there and I had no time to rummage in bag and get flash on. Shhitshitshit.
It is only the next day that I have gained enough detachment and equilibrium that I can see the previous day clearly again. It was a truly memorable experience, a unique experience. And not really because I was in the presence of that actor whom I like for a mere two seconds or because I got two good shots out of 420. It was great because I did something that most of my friends would not even consider doing in their dreams. I did something that only served the purpose of sating my curiosity – a luxury. And I got a valuable lesson in event photography, something that truly enhances my knowledge and gives me new insights
In hindsight, I am struck by the weirdness of the event, though. Even while I was there it reminded me of a circus. Or even worse, a zoo. There were the precious, exotic animals on one side of the fence, and on the other side the public, reaching out to feed them and touch them, and flashing their cameras at them. How utterly, utterly bizarre. I kind of understand that the celebs have to take part in that circus – they are promoting a film. But why the hell are we there? Waiting for 8 hours on a winter day, outside, in the rain, for a glimpse – a GLIMPSE – of another human being which also walks and stalks on two feet, consists of 75 percent water like you and me, ok, possibly nicer to look at and endowed with talent, but ultimately – how ludicrously mad!
But would I do it again? Yes I would. Because this was not a wasted day, at all. It was full of good humour. Something that made me feel alive and happy. There could not be a better outcome of any endeavour. Fangirling – a tonic!