Oscar campaigning 3:Screenings, Parties, Premieres
Written by Sarah
For Part 1 click here.
For Part 2 click here.
This is the step that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, those who came to game and those who can’t play. Screenings and parties are an important part of any Oscar campaign as it creates media events that keep your film front and center as other movies are released and the crowd grows larger. In a competitive year like this one, screenings and events can make or break your film’s presence on the award circuit. And nothing kicks off an Oscar campaign quite like a big, splashy premiere. Just look at True Grit.
Our case study this week is The Social Network because their campaign has been masterful and by far the most effective. Given they took all the major non-acting awards at the Golden Globes on Sunday I don’t think they can be stopped now. Their campaign is an essential part of their domination.
As with all things campaigning, though, there are a set of inscrutable Academy regulations governing how these events go down. If you (being the studio/distributor responsible for the film) hold a screening, you can’t include receptions/refreshments, a Q&A, and no one affiliated with the film can be involved in “live participation”. If the screening is open to the ticket-buying public, Academy members can’t use their credentials to gain free access. After nominations go out, people affiliated with the film may be listed as “hosts” only, there is no live participation allowed…
Your film is presented by a third party, such as a media organization, in which case ALL of these rules go out the window. Exhibit A: on December 2 Variety, the trade publication, hosted a screening of TSN at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood. It was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Dana Harris, at the time the editor of Variety.com (just days later she would announce she was going to IndieWire.com). Participants included Aaron Sorkin, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer and Andrew Garfield. By the Academy’s rules, this shouldn’t be allowable, except that Variety, a third party, hosted the screening. So then it’s all okay.
The clause regarding events such as receptions which are specifically meant to promote an achievement or eligible film for Academy consideration states these events are expressly forbidden. Those are the Academy’s words. For Academy consideration. Expressly forbidden. Yet on January 6 TSN had a big party at Spago in Beverly Hills. There was a red carpet and a photocall and everyone showed up. How? It was the DVD/Blu-Ray launch party, not a party held for Academy consideration. This is the end around. Everyone does this. Even a film with not half the resources of TSN, which is being bankrolled by Columbia Pictures/Sony Entertainment, like Winter’s Bone does a DVD launch during award season (theirs was back in October). DVD launches are a way for movies released earlier in the year to refresh their presence during award season.
But if your movie is premiering during award season, your campaign often (should) include a splashy premiere. True Grit had a formal premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City on December 14. It was a huge event that attracted a ton of people not affiliated with the film like Adrian Grenier, Holly Hunter (though she is a friend of the Coens), Jena Malone, Sam Waterston and Paul Haggis. Screenings are still possible, but with a late opening like True Grit’s your premiere has to be calibrated for maximum impact. Premieres are so much less of a headache as part of a campaign as they’re not regulated by the Academy. You still can’t hand out a leaflet that says, “Vote for this movie for an Academy Award”, but there are no stipulations about who you can and can’t invite and who can and can’t present the premiere.
Screenings, parties and premieres are the human face of your Oscar campaign but as with the “for your consideration”, always always always let someone else do your dirty work.
Next week: Personal appearances