It’s a simple Oscar truth: 5% or bust.
Every year, the motion picture Academy tweaks its rules for Oscar promotional efforts. It’s all to prevent the studio that spends the most on its campaign from automatically taking home the trophies — and to avoid having publicists target individual voters.
But even a newbie campaigner — of which there are next to none in this veterans’ game — will tell you that no amount of campaigning can help a film that doesn’t connect enough traction to earn first-place votes on at least 5% of Oscar ballots.
So at the end of the day, the role of publicists boils down to a single key element: get voters to see the films they represent. The Academy can change the rules all they want, and campaigners will adapt in an effort to get voters into theaters.
For that reason, the new rules for the 2011 qualifying year haven’t changed the tenor of the race all that much.
One longtime awards consultant says even though this season saw more Q&As — albeit without food and drink post-nomination, per the rules changes — the biggest benefit of the alterations was removing some areas that had been open to interpretation.
“The adjustments made it easier to color in the lines,” the campaigner says. “Then you can focus on how to create a community and get people to see the movie.”
Part of creating that community is having cast and crew available for press, which another consultant calls a key to success in this season’s race, as in previous years.
For example, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” might have been extremely late to the game, but the film’s director did the rounds and made sure the film remained top of mind for voters. “The Help” had two compelling actresses who had open schedules and the bonus of a big box office take.
The Weinstein Co.’s films — such as “My Week With Marilyn,” “The Iron Lady” and the ubiquitous “The Artist” — have benefitted not only from Harvey Weinstein’s always-on-message campaigning, but from having the key performers appear at nearly every event during the season, including a few new ones. Even George Clooney, who has pulled back from the press in previous seasons, has been on the circuit more than ever for “The Descendants.”
“There was so much of George and Brad (Pitt for ‘Moneyball’ ‘The Tree of Life’) that it changed people’s opinions of the films,” another noted consultant says, pointing out that big names are always a plus during awards season.
With electronic voting and a potential date change for the ceremony on the horizon, it is somewhat comforting to know that some things have stayed the same. The noms generated another outcry over omissions, critics and Oscar bloggers denounced the quality of films for the year and campaigners looked for places to push the envelope. All in a season’s work.