Industry-Proven Survival Tips for First-Time Awards Candidates

Oscar season is in high gear, with Q&A sessions, cocktail receptions and industry schmooze-athons. First-time acting contenders are always in demand, but the hoopla can be overwhelming. So here are some tips on how to survive.

Watch your health.
Oscar season is a six-month marathon. Each event features enticing food and if you’re not careful, you will look like Fatty Arbuckle by the time the Oscars arrive. And buy hand sanitizer. A string of journalists will want to congratulate you, so you will definitely want to clean your hands afterward. (You know what I’m saying?) Besides, awards season is cold/flu season. So vitamins and Purell will be your best friends through Feb. 28.

Rehearse with your strategists.
Journalists are always looking for something quotable, so they might ask questions about racism, gender equality, the folly of awards competition, Donald Trump or Bill Cosby. Anticipate these questions and figure out a response. (If you want to wing it, feel free. But be prepared to be tweeted and analyzed for weeks. Think of Quentin Tarantino …) A strategist will give you official talking points, and you will soon be sick at the sound of your own voice, trying to seem thoughtful and spontaneous. But consider this: James O’Neill, father of Eugene O’Neill, played the title role in “The Count of Monte Cristo” for more than 6,000 performances. If he can recite the same lines so many times, you can deal with six months of answering “What drew you to the project?”

“Meryl Streep, God bless her, has been on the road touting ‘Suffragette,’ so if she can do it, why can’t you?”
@timgray_variety

Trust your instincts.
On the other hand, you don’t have to accept every interview offered. Awards-films often have multiple publicists, and their first goal is to get you on the radar; every vote counts and they don’t want to miss a single opportunity. But their second goal is to demonstrate how hard they’re working on your behalf. So they will happily book you with back-to-back interviews from now until February. If you don’t feel like meeting with that blogger whose website is not yet completed, feel free to say no.

Don’t wear a gown with a train.
Many black-tie events during the season are fun. But every one of them will have red-carpet gridlock. A voluminous dress may look glamorous in the fitting room, but is a target during awards season. Take this advice from someone who has accidentally stepped on more trains than I’d care to remember: Trains are fine for Grand Central, but not for Oscar season.

Don’t be afraid of the C word.
First-year Oscar hopefuls are always horrified by the word “campaigning” (that’s especially true of British actors, for some reason). Meryl Streep, God bless her, has been on the road touting “Suffragette,” so if she can do it, why can’t you? Just remind yourself that you’re touting a film that needs attention. Besides, if people can campaign to run a country, you shouldn’t blush at the idea of campaigning for your film.

Don’t listen to handicappers.
If you’re a nominee, you have two choices. You either assume you will win and go to the ceremony feeling great, though risking disappointment; or else, assume you won’t win, in which case, you might get a nice surprise. Either way, prepare a speech. There’s nothing worse than someone ad-libbing in front of 800 million people.

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