Oscar noms were announced this week and the film industry is in the midst of a frenetic period of campaigning for the February 28 awards. But what’s the secret to campaigning for an Oscar win?
Huge amounts of money are invested in Oscar marketing campaigns with Hollywood spending an estimated $100m to $500m on the fight for Academy Awards each year. With a one page advert in trade mag the Hollywood Reporter during Oscar season costing in excess of $72,000 it is not surprising that non-studio films often find themselves priced out of the running.
Studios campaign using a wide range of tactics including advertising, direct marketing, screenings and screener DVDs. Lobbying has also become a major component with talent attending numerous events in the lead up to the Oscars and courting press and critics.
Expensive marketing campaigns often result in wins over talent and substance. However, closer examination reveals there are a variety of approaches adopted to getting nominations and wins. There is no one size fits all rule to promoting an Oscar winning film.
When it comes to marketing, Harvey Weinstein is considered to be a genius. He has revolutionized the way the industry promotes films for awards with his aggressive and effective campaigning (he’s scored more than 300 Academy Award nominations to date).
Weinstein spent a record $5m campaigning for a Best Film win for Shakespeare In Love over favourite Saving Private Ryan in 1999. His relentless and unprecedented lobbying led to a ban by the Academy on private cocktail parties, exclusive post-screening Q&As and other flashy events during Oscar season.
Weinstein tried a different approach in 2013 when campaigning for nominations for Tarantino’s Django Unchained. He deliberately chose not to issue screener DVDs to Academy members in order to encourage them to see it on the big screen.
The film ended up with 5 nominations and won awards for best supporting actor and best original screenplay.
Organic / grassroots
Low budget, independent films simply cannot fund multi-million dollar marketing campaigns. But original ideas, writing, and performances can shine thanks to the buzz and acclaim generated at prestigious film festivals.
One example of such is Beast of The Southern Wild, which generated pre-Oscar word of mouth following success at the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals.
An anti-campaigning attitude is on the rise in Hollywood and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln was notable as the producer and studio decided to let the film speak for itself and refused to campaign for it.
In the years since a number of actors including Michael Fassbender and Joaquin Phoenix have publicly announced their refusal to campaign for a win. However, it should be noted that neither of them won the award in the end either.
Whatever the approach, Hollywood and beyond will be on the edge of their seats on Oscar night to see who exactly walks away with one of the coveted statuettes. Our fingers are crossed for The Revenant!