Book readings, personal appearances among promo activities
The Oscar campaign trail has gotten wider this year.In a season of contradictions and question marks, Academy Awards campaigners are coming up with alternative ways of promoting their candidates: book readings, special screenings and more personal appearances than you can shake a stick at. When people in the media speak of Academy Awards campaigns, they’re often referring to the “for your consideration” ads taken out in Variety and other publications. But those ads comprise only a fraction of the strategy. One of the biggest expenses comes from flying contenders around the globe for appearances on chatshows and at fetes; those airfare, hotel and expense tabs can be costly. And there are additional costs, such as duplication and mailing of viewing cassettes/DVDs and theater rentals for screenings. Naturally, no one at the studios wants to talk about these things, even off the record. An Oscar campaign is more strategized, more intense and more secretive than any covert CIA operation. But this year, it’s hard to miss the campaign innovations and intensifications. A few include:
- On Jan. 7, the “In the Bedroom” stars appeared at West Hollywood’s Book Soup to read the short story that inspired the film. And at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art on Jan. 19, Ian McKellen was scheduled to read from “The Lord of the Rings” for local schoolkids.
- For the first time, Fox Searchlight has taken out “for your consideration” ads in the New Yorker, of all places.
- Decca Records and UMG Soundtracks on Jan. 15 offered a listening party for Hans Zimmer’s score of “Black Hawk Down,” followed by a screening of the pic.
- “Ali” was able to use the drawing power of the Greatest. Muhammad Ali got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — well, not actually on the walk; it was on a nearby wall, since he didn’t want anyone walking on his star — plus a birthday celebration/TV show. Was it a coincidence that both events occurred smack dab in the middle of the kudos season?
- The American Cinematheque in Hollywood has held salutes to Sean Penn and Lasse Hallstrom; Penn is also being honored by the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
- Two studios are continuing the recent tradition of TV infomercials: DreamWorks, with “Shrek,” and Miramax, with a slew of its contenders this year — “Amelie,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “In the Bedroom,” “Iris,” “The Others,” “The Shipping News.” Half-hour documentaries on the making of these films are airing on L.A. and Gotham stations.
- Last year, DreamWorks/ Universal held a series of “meet the filmmaker” screenings for “Gladiator” — which eventually won the best pic prize. Perhaps mindful of that victory, the studios have this year embraced that format, in which a screening, usually open to the public, is accompanied by a Q&A session with the stars, director and/or producer. Q&A’s have included “Amelie,” “Baran,” “Gosford Park,” “Moulin Rouge” and “The Others.”
- Of course, there are the “special screenings,” such as the one Joanne Woodward and Martin Scorsese are hosting for “In the Bedroom” this week in Gotham.