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Oscars: Parties, Q&As, Campaigning More Rampant Than Ever As Voting Continues

Pete Hammond

Joaquin Phoenix and Anthony Hopkins may not approve, but Oscar season campaigning on the party circuit has been at fever pitch.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re exhausted. We are out every night it seems and the invitations keep coming,”  one Oscar-winning Academy member told me recently. He was referring to the glut of invites to parties, lunches, screenings with Q&As and everything else for which Oscar season campaigning has come to be known. He pointedly added that none of it has ever influenced his vote but he is not turning down the elaborate food spreads and the chance to mingle with contenders. “Just don’t tell anyone who invites me to these things, but  it doesn’t really have much impact on the way I fill out my ballot,”  he added with a smile.

That won’t stop Oscar strategists from trying and the campaign activity this season seems like it pushed into high gear much earlier than normal and hasn’t let up, even as the Christmas break quickly approaches and the town starts to shut down. Don’t tell that to the relentless Weinstein Company who will still have some of their contenders out on the stump even over this holiday weekend. Quentin Tarantino who, despite seeing his Los Angeles premiere for Django Unchained cancelled Tuesday night out of sensitivity to the Newtown tragedy, was out doing a Q&A and reception for a packed screening at the Academy last night and will be doing the same thing for BAFTA-LA Friday night. Read More »

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OSCAR: Academy’s New Campaigning Rules

By | Wednesday September 21, 2011 @ 1:35pm PDT

HAMMOND: Will Oscars’ New Rules Actually Increase The Campaign Frenzy?

Beverly Hills, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today issued regulations for how movies and achievements eligible for the 84th Academy Awards may be marketed to Academy members.

The most notable change affects screening events that include filmmaker participation. Additional changes address digital delivery of movies to Academy members and public references to competing films or achievements via social media platforms.

“These campaign regulations play an important role in protecting the integrity of the Academy Awards process and the distinction of the Oscar®,” said Academy President Tom Sherak. “Above all, we want Academy members to see movies as they were meant to be seen, in a theatrical setting.”

Prior to the nominations announcement (January 24, 2012), there are no restrictions on screening events to which Academy members may be invited. These events may include the live participation of individuals involved with the film (Q&A panel discussions, etc.) as well as receptions with food and beverage. After the nominations have been announced, Academy members may continue be invited to screenings that have filmmaker participation elements but receptions are not permitted. While there is no restriction on the total number of screenings of a particular movie, no one individual from the film can participate in more than two panel discussions. Previously, Academy members could not be invited to any screening event that included live participation of the filmmaker(s) or a reception either before or after the nominations had been announced.

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OSCAR MOGULS: Rich Ross Q&A

The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:

WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
12 Nominations: 5 Toy Story 3, 3 Alice In Wonderland, 1 Tron: Legacy 3D, 1 The Tempest, 1 Tangled, 1 Day & Night

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: You’ve never done an Oscar campaign before. These weren’t even your movies. What was the biggest challenge you were facing?
RICH ROSS: For me to be able to support films that I didn’t greenlight was putting me in the brain of a marketer. I certainly knew I was lucky that I saw Alice In Wonderland before it was complete, and I saw Toy Story 3 way before it was complete. I think what made it very easy for me, in all honesty, was working with Tim Burton on Alice or working with John Lassiter — people who pour their heart and soul into these movies. And seeing how these movies both performed and were talked about and heralded is no less thrilling because I didn’t greenlight them. I see the faces of the people who win and you know they are thrilled. And that makes me happy. I would say that the most challenging situation was coming in and coming up with a strategy of support. At the same time you don’t have relationships which people have had for 20, 30, 40 years with the different organizations who determine the outcome of those races — people in the Directors Guild or people in the Producers Guild or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or the National Board of Review. These are many, many organizations aside from the critics who are giving out kudos.

DEADLINE: But you had Oscar consultants.
ROSS: We already had Tony Angelotti on the animation side, and we had Kira Feola on the live action side. They’ve split up the responsibilities. And the late Ronni Chasen was working on Alice In Wonderland, too, because she had worked with the Zanucks for a very long time. So Dick had asked me if it was possible to bring in Ronni to help support the film, and of course to support the filmmaker we said sure.

DEADLINE: It must have been such a blow for everyone at Disney when she died.
ROSS: Well, it was beyond shocking because I saw her the night before and she was very much in the heat of the moment because she was very close with the Zanucks and so when it happened it was very tough.

DEADLINE: You’ve done plenty of Emmy campaigns. What is the difference do you think now?
ROSS: The Emmy campaign is so much more targeted because you’re really going for one group of people who are voting on that series of awards. The Oscar campaign difference is the diversity of the groups. You have to thread the needle. You are going from literally that first National Board of Review list through every critics group that are in Iowa and St. Louis to all the Guild groups til you get to the Oscar nomination and an Oscar win.

DEADLINE: Let’s talk about Alice in Wonderland first. It didn’t get a Best Picture nomination.
ROSS: My feeling on Alice was I knew going into it we had a proverbial issue of timing. Obviously, it made a billion dollars. But that doesn’t help you. It opened in March. So it was about getting people to remember what they saw. Aside from the problem of when they do see it, the No. 2 challenge is commercialism which seems to come up every year. Last year the ultimate was with Avatar vs The Hurt Locker where people felt Avatar already had its success because the box office was there. It’s not that it doesn’t get attention but it’s definitely a challenge in terms of people’s interpretation of the Awards season. And one of the curious things for me was Mia Wasikowska who was doing her first film and held together a $150 million plus film that made a billion dollars. And when people are talking about breakout stars, I would stand around talking about her, and they are like, ‘Really?’ Now she’s getting huge movies and I believe she will be a huge star. But to me that was the most curious.

DEADLINE: And then Tim Burton has been pretty much ignored by Oscar voters.
ROSS: I think he’s clearly at the top of his game. This was a giant year for him and I assume he wanted to be appreciated. I do believe that day will come before it has to be an honorary Oscar. And I don’t believe it will be a small movie, Nikki. I do believe it will be some substantial commercial film where people will say, ‘It’s about time.’ Read More »

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OSCAR: Documentary On ‘Social Network’

Pete Hammond

Sony Pictures is looking for any way to focus attention back on the reasons why The Social Network was the early Best Picture frontrunner for most of the season until it got gobsmacked in the Guild awards by a certain British film. So the studio is taking out ads in Los Angeles promoting a free screening of David Prior’s new 90-minute feature documentary, How Did They Ever Make A Movie Of Facebook? (Clip here.) Prior is a frequent collaborator with David Fincher who produced docs on his films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, and Panic Room, and will introduce the film and do a post-screening Q&A on Sunday at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks. It is open to the industry and public and and it’s free but reservations are required at (310) 244-3901. This event takes place just as The Social Network will be learning its fate at the BAFTA awards in London where it is up for six major prizes (compared to hometown fave The King’s Speech nommed for 14). The London Film Critics just gave it a boost when it was named Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay this week so things are looking up. Or is it just a case of more critics trying to friend the movie again? With news reports crediting Facebook as a major factor in the Egyptian revolution that pushed out its President, I would say it is certainly not a bad time to turn … Read More »

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OSCAR: Melissa Leo Goes Rogue With Her Own Personal Campaign Ads

Pete Hammond

Apparently she wasn’t content to let the Paramount and Relativity marketing machine do all the campaign work. So Best Supporting Actress frontrunner Melissa Leo personally paid for Hollywood trade ads (including on Deadline.com) Thursday showing  her super glammed-up wearing “Faux (not real) Fur” and a glittery evening gown. The text simply said “Consider”  and then below that, “Melissa Leo”, and in very tiny fine print off to the side the web address www.melissaleo.com, a photo credit, and a faux fur credit. There is no reference to her movie, The Fighter, or her critically acclaimed and  gritty real-life character, Alice Ward. Perhaps the point was to show a completely different side of the actress from the blue collar mother and fight manager she portrays in the film, a Supporting Actress role that has already won her the Critics Choice award, a Golden Globe, and a SAG award. It’s a trophy haul that has put her in lead position to take the Oscar.

So why go rogue now? I spoke to Leo today moments after she arrived in New Orleans to resume her role in HBO’s Treme. She explained the ads followed months of her frustration at not being able to land magazine covers, even with all the awards and attention for The Fighter. Leo is 50 years old and she attributes the media’s lack of interest to ageism and because of that and other factors she’s not considered “box office”.   “I took … Read More »

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OSCAR: Now Every Campaign Enters Crucial Final Stretch

Pete Hammond

The Oscar ballots went into the mail today and should be in every one of the 5,755 voting members’ hands by tomorrow, or at least by the weekend depending on how long it takes some of them to travel to snowbound or far-flung places. The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has set a due date of February 22nd, which could be a lifetime considering the ever-changing twists and turns of this surprising awards season. That’s why no major Academy Awards campaign seems willing to give up the hunt for gold quite yet.

For this second phase of Oscar campaigning, studios have tweaked, or in some cases completely retooled, their advertising to incorporate catch phrases and/or images they hope the Academy will notice. Warner Bros has noticeably increased its Inception buys on TV and in print and online. With its 10 nominations, True Grit is now suddenly “the most honored American movie of the year” (a not-so-subtle dig at the very British King’s Speech). While Paramount’s other contender, The Fighter, has new fighting words saying that “Nothing can stop an underdog whose time has come”.  Disney wants voters to know “the most successful animated film in history” (Toy Story 3 in case you live in a cave) is now nominated for Best Picture. While  Fox Searchlight has changed up their Black Swan poster with a highly dramatic … Read More »

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OSCAR: Last Minute Campaigning & Voting

Pete Hammond

If you haven’t filled out your Oscar nominating ballot yet, you have until 5 PM PT today to get it to the PriceWaterhouse Coopers offices in Los Angeles at 350 S. Grand, Suite 4900. There have been years where 400 to 500 ballots have been walked in the day they were due, according to one Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences consultant who as always plans to have someone count the messengers making deliveries. It’s all part of the last-minute rush to get as many votes as possible for their pictures in the hands of the accountants. Think of it as the same syndrome we see on April 15th when taxpayers wait until the very last moment to drop off their taxes off.

Even though ballots were coming due, it didn’t slow a slew of campaign events especially with everyone in town for this weekend’s non-stop award binge. It kicks off Friday with the AFI luncheon honoring the best in movies and TV in 2010, followed by Friday night’s 16th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards which airs live on VH1 from the Hollywood Palladium starting at 6 PM PT. Of course, loads of parties lead up to the Golden Globes including Friday night’s CAA bash at the Soho House. Saturday AM brings a brunch at Boa honoring this year’s Independent Spirit Award nominees, followed by the BAFTA-LA  tea, then the LA Film Critics Awards banquet, and more parties galore honoring Golden Globe nominees including soirees thrown by Disney at the London Hotel and Paramount at Chateau … Read More »

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OSCAR: Campaigning At This Fevered Pitch All About Who You Know For Endorsements

Pete Hammond

Parties are rampant as usual at this point in awards season but the biggest new trend, or so it seems at least, is the number of publicized hosted screenings and endorsements for various contenders. There was a time when it was thought the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences officially frowned on having their members come out and “host” or introduce events aimed at getting attention for actors, directors etc who are in contention for Oscar nominations. But it doesn’t seem like that is keeping voting members of the Academy (or even the Board) from playing favorites or giving hints on where their sentiments lie at this crucial time in Oscar campaigning before the January 25th nominations. With the races so tight, Oscar consultants are feeling the need to do anything they can now to get a leg up on the competition. So having highly visible support from previous Oscar winners or prominent Academy members is one way to do it, or so the thinking goes. Although one person who works in this game told me they wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy started cracking down on the practice again since it seems to be mushrooming – at least in the press.

Kathryn Bigelow, last year’s Best Director winner and a new member of the Academy’s Board of Governors, was out and about this week at private screenings virtually endorsing director Debra Granik and her film Winter’s Bone. At a Roadside Attractions … Read More »

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