Coventry’s Herbert Art Gallery was yesterday treated to a screening of Starsuckers a film by director Chris Atkins. Chris visited the gallery as part of Coventry Conversations which is run by the university.
Starsuckers is a film which exposes the media and the ways in which the celeb culture we’re all now obsessed with has taken over the news. Chris believes “The notion of celebrity has degraded the news”.
The reasoning behind the film was that he believed tabloid editors would publish celebrity stories no matter how far fetched they were and without checking if they were actually true. From this Starsuckers was born.
When asked why he wanted to make this kind of film he said, “Journalists are very good at criticising others; this film exposes the criminal behaviour within the media.”
Chris had to fund the film himself as understandably no one wanted to pay for a film which would expose them but eventually Channel 4 got behind him. Then film took around two years to make mainly because he was funding it himself.
When the film came out in October 2009 everyone from Bob Geldof to Max Clifford attempted to sue, Chris felt he needed to take people like that on though because “no one usually touches them because they’re nutters and they’ll sue.”
However attempts to sue Chris have failed over the fact the film exposes things that are in the public’s interest.
Chris feels that newspapers are now mainly made up of press releases which lead to newspapers printing lies. On the subject of journalism versus public relations he said, “There are now more people whose job it is to lie to you than there are whose job it is to tell the truth.”
A half an hour section of the film which focused on selling fake celeb news stories to the media was shown to the audience.
In the film Flat Earth News writer Nick Davies claimed that newspapers were “Not in the business of telling the truth, they are in the business of being a business.” He added to this, “Half of the stories are from press releases, it’s not news its advertising. Press releases are unreliable as a source of news but most PR people see their work published as a news story because journalists don’t have the time to rewrite things.”
Also within the film a manager from the Miss UK competition was seen egging one if his clients so when the paparazzi took photo’s it would look as though protestors had done it to her. The story was fabricated in order to get column inches.
The film exposed how dangerous it can be to sell stories to news papers as one ‘kiss and tell’ girl was interviewed saying how she’d been paid thousands by tabloids for her stories all which went to fund a drug and alcohol habit.
When she got raped at a drug dealers house the police refused to take the case further, despite the fact it was common knowledge that the man had committed offences like that before, due to her reputation.
Perhaps the clip that was the most shocking was when Chris met with journalists from various tabloid papers and told them he could gain information on medical records detailing supposed plastic surgery procedures on celebrities.
He claimed a Girls Aloud member had had a breast enlargement; Hugh Grant had had a face lift and other procedures on various celebs. Despite it being illegal to reveal details on medical records, one paper afford him up to £10,000 if he could “get the nitty gritty details”, whilst another told him he could be looking at up to £300 per story.
In the film Max Clifford agreed to do an interview however afterwards he was secretly filmed name dropping several celebrities (who remained anonymous in the film) and how much they paid for his “protection”.
He was heard talking about an older male celeb who likes younger girls however Clifford justified that it was ok to go around “groping 17 year old girls” because he donated money to a hospice.
After the film Chris was asked about his views on the Press Complaints Commission, an independent body which deals with the self regulation of the press. Chris said, “It’s a total fig leaf, it’s an apologist.” He explained that because they are funded by the papers they’re hands are tied, they can’t go against them.
He explained that the PCC did nothing to make the papers better because “The only language the papers understand is money and the PCC can’t fine.”
Chris was asked if he thought his film would make a difference with the public as people still buy newspapers, he answered, “Once people know that papers are just made up of press releases, they’ll never see it as anything else. The public need educating.”
He made it clear that his film was purely about educating people and making something that wasn’t already out there, “It’s the hypocrisy in the media that winds me up so for me to make a film like this just for fame and money would be hypocritical of me.”
When asked to give advice to young journalists Chris said, “There are good journalists out there its just the organisations they’re in that prevent them from doing their job.” After earlier claiming that “Local news was dying on its arse” he finished with “It’s your job to go out and find local news.”