Film Fests – to be aware of:
- Cannes in France
- Sundance in Utah
- Toronto International Film Fest
- Real to Reel –Kings Mountain, NC (Great local film fest featuring films and filmmakers from around the world –every July)
- Why do film fests matter?
- Recognition (even official selections matter)
- Networking (with other filmmakers and film fans)
- Distribution opportunities
- Possible investors
- The can actually break a film (or filmmaker) into the mainstream box -office
The Race that is Oscar
Using the term “race” to describe the Academy Awards is quite appropriate. It truly is a sprint toward the finish line in a marathon series of events leading up to the final leg, the final prize of the award’s season for filmmakers. In late October promoters began trotting their films around to voters much like thoroughbred horses being paced throughout an arena. Elements of cinematography, musical score, and set design are but a few of the attributes displayed to film voters in hopes of recognition and accolades for excellence and achievement in this chaotic world of award’s season. From critics’ picks, to actor’s choice, to director’s, and producer’s kudos – the myriad of awards groups and shows recognizing the best in filmmaking will culminate (as is always the case) with Oscar. And in truth, while all other awards are important, it is, and it will always be, the Oscar that is the most coveted prize for all filmmakers.
Much like the Superbowl, the Pulitzer, and the Nobel – all other prizes, awards or wins actually pale in comparison. And that is one of the reasons why studios spend so much money in an attempt to have their films and filmmakers noticed. A Best Picture nomination in itself is worth $20 million more to the film’s final box office take while an Oscar win can bring in an additional $14 million after the awards are presented, according to market research organization IBISWorld. So money is definitely the most important factor in the Oscar game.
Why Award-season matters (October –February)
- Exposure -to new audiences and studios for films and filmmakers
- Prestige- (nominations are even important) for the:
C. Historical standing for a recognized film or filmmaker
D. Job Security (for at least 5 years) –more options for stars, directors, producers, etc.
- More $$$ earnings (at the box office, home theatre sales, rentals, and for the filmmakers and studios)
- Pride (in being able to say award-winning actor, actress, filmmaker)
Timing is everything.
- Most studios choose to release their award contenders between October and December — the time closest to awards voting — so any buzz will be fresh in the minds of voters. First impressions are important, and making a splash first in the film festivals is also a universal strategy. This creates buzz and excitement.
- Early awards presented are usually by critics groups (you can actually compare these to political primaries). These go a long way to paving the way to who will finally be considered for Oscars. Oscar voters pay attention to critics –because they are evaluating film the same way (in most cases) from the artistic approach.
- Studios need to release the films early enough for voting audiences. They also need time for word-of-mouth to get around . . . so that the movie will find its audience.
- There are exceptions to the fall release schedule for awards-consideration. Examples
include: Silence of the Lambs (Feb. release), Forest Gump (summer release), Hurt Locker (June release). Word of mouth for those films spread and stayed hot throughout the theatrical run and throughout award-season.
Winning the Awards cost $$$$
In some ways you have to buy yourself into award-consideration. Award campaigning began in the ‘60s.
- Awards campaigns are not cheap — campaign budgets can run $24 million per film. Mailing DVD screeners to the Academy’s 6,000-plus members plus all the other awards groups, advertising in trade publications, attending festivals, hosting private screening events and conducting media tours are only the beginning.
- Without the studio’s support during awards-season, films will most likely go nowhere during the awards process (private screenings, setting up junket interviews, red carpet invites).
- But spending all those $$$ doesn’t guarantee awards … it only secures a chance to be considered.
Examples: I receive over 100 screeners in November & December – and I don’t get to watch every single one of them. It becomes like triage at a hospital for me. I look at what buzz is happening in the film community, I look at films that may have directors, writers or stars that I’m drawn to … and those move to my must-see-first list.
Do the best artistic films and performances always win?
No, in some instances it can become a popularity contest or a lifetime achievement contest. Is it always objective? No, sometimes voters may cast a ballot for someone they like, or cast a ballot against someone they dislike. If any of the nominees have done anything to tick-off voters –they can become alienated and may never earn an accolade from a voting member. Sometimes voters may be drawn to a friend who is nominated or someone you like as a person (even if they don’t have the best performance). I mentioned lifetime achievement because sometimes voters may honor a long-time star for a great (but maybe not the best) performance because they’ve never won before. Examples: Max Von Sydow @ 82 yrs. old for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”, Christopher Plummer @ 82 yrs. old for “Beginners”, and Hal Holbrook @ 82 yrs. old for “Into the Wild”–neither has ever won an Oscar but had earned legendary status for the amazing bodies of work. Sometimes voters will vote for these filmmakers as a “crowd fave.” Legendary actor Paul Newman acted for over 30 years before earning an Oscar, and it was opposite Tom Cruise in “The Color of Money.”
Studios Must Understand the Target Media to Engage Voters
- Today’s media landscape has changed how studios reach voting audiences. In the 1980s, television was the key public influencer, whereas now the media is more spread out, requiring a broader reach.
- Hollywood has discovered that the Internet and social media are the most import resources for the studios to create an audience buzz on their films. It also allows the general public and the critics to connect and dialogue in a way that is starting to really impact the industry. When you have that dialogue and discussion between those two – box office blockbusters can become part of the equation within awards-circles.
Although those conversations may spark interest in voters, at this point, it is still up to the studios to make the final push. Studios still haven’t quite figured out the perfect way to use social media as a magic bullet in award-season marketing to voters.
- Instead traditional marketing avenues like print, television and even billboard advertising play a much larger role in award campaigning (especially in Los Angeles and New York). It is very common to see this in trade publications targeted to voters.
So why do awards and film fest matter … the bottom line … $$$$$