‘Selma’s’ Guild Rebuff: Can Studios Afford to Skip Screeners?


When the DGA Awards nominations Tuesday failed to include “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, Twitter talk ascribed the omission to possible racism or sexism. But within the industry, Paramount’s gamble to send “Selma” DVD screeners to Oscar and BAFTA voters, but not to the guilds, was believed to be a major factor.

The DGA nominations were the final guild announcement to not include the well-received “Selma,” which was also shut out of the SAG and PGA noms, while it wasn’t eligible for WGA noms.

The Martin Luther King Jr. drama currently has a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — higher than any other contender including “Boyhood” (98%) — and was listed as a strong contender this awards season after premiering at the AFI Fest, but production delays ultimately prevented “Selma” from competing for these top guild honors.

Whether the Academy screeners helped its Oscar chances will be revealed Thursday when nominations are announced — that is, if voters think DuVernay belongs in the top five.

“This was not a ‘strategy ‘; it’s what we were able to do with this movie within the timeline of when it was finalized and received,” said Paramount’s longtime awards consultant, Lea Yardum. Studio reps bristle at the suggestion they dropped the ball or aren’t supporting it: “We love this movie, and we’re supporting it with every ounce of our beings,” said Yardum.

The execs at Par were following the same timetable as “Wolf of Wall Street” last year; in both cases, late delivery of the film butted up against early awards-voting deadlines. Of course, DuVernay’s name isn’t nearly as well known as that of “Wolf” director Martin Scorsese.

DuVernay delivered “Selma” on Nov. 26, and screeners were sent to BAFTA and AMPAS voters Dec. 18, after Par paid a premium for sped-up service, since it usually takes up to six weeks to prep DVDs for voters.

Because of the DVD timetable, Par focused on screenings for voters in New York and L.A. The screener issue was underlined when “Selma” was a surprise no-show in Producers Guild nominations.

The movie opened in a limited run Dec. 25, widening Jan. 9. Other Christmas debuts, including “American Sniper,” did send screeners in time, but the prints were ready earlier, sources confirm.

Deluxe Toronto is the go-to place to manufacture screeners; the fulfillment house for “Selma” was Vision Media Management, which sent the discs to BAFTA and AMPAS voters via overnight messenger. In theory, Par could have met final deadlines for some of the guilds, but instead it focused on in-person screenings in New York and Los Angeles, since the studio had already missed some guild deadlines

For example, SAG Awards voting was Nov. 20 through Dec. 8; PGA was Dec. 1-Jan. 2; AMPAS was Dec. 29-Jan. 8.

Sources said there were other factors in the decision. Many voters give their workplace address for packages, to protect their privacy; since many businesses had closed down on Dec. 17, Par execs wondered if they would reach enough voters. The second factor was whether the cost of shipping to guild voters in the middle of voting would pay off, since there was no guarantee recipients would watch the “Selma” screener — or vote for it. In fact, BAFTA gave the film zero nominations, though voters were sent the screeners.

“Selma” screened Nov. 11 at AFI Fest in Los Angeles, but the filmmakers pointed out it was not a finished print. It’s possible guild members saw “Selma” on the bigscreen and didn’t love it.

Piracy is always a concern for studios, especially with big films that open late in the year. So watermarking is important. But screeners have become a dominant factor  in voting, as opposed to the auxiliary that they were intended to be. Various showbiz orgs urge members to see films on the bigscreen, but voters in conversation consistently equate the terms “catching up on films” with “a stack of screeners at home.”

Whether or not “Selma” is recognized on Oscar nominations day, it seems clear that next year studios will take a much closer look at the timing of screener deliveries to voters.


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  1. slb says:

    For those who claim “Selma” is not a good movie, you are, of course entitled to your opinion. However, the movie received a 99% fresh rating with critics AND an 89% fresh rating with critics. Both ratings are better than all the other best film nominees save “Whiplash”. How does a movie with arguably the best reviews of the year not see its director nominated? I know it happens more and more with the expanded best film category. But it does not make sense that someone can direct a movie with the highest accolades, but not be nominated herself.

    • Please stop yang yanging just because Oprah and Brad Pitt want an Oscar real bad. There were no controversy last year when 12 years a slave won. Brad Pitt is plan b folks. I notice they don’t call his name right out but they say producer are Oprah and Plan B. Selma is nothing new. It is history as we know it. And it was not all the truth. By the way I am Afro-American.

  2. AgentCarter1946 says:

    Forgot to add — if you want to place blame, place your blame with Paramount for not sending out screener dvds to the Guilds. They dropped the ball on their end. Period. That’s a fact.

  3. AgentCarter1946 says:

    The movie, actually about the march and NOT MLK, is a tired story. Its been told over and over and over in books, documentaries, etc. I would for an African-American company – we have to TWIST arms of clients to perhaps think of doing something for MLK – some do, some don’t — those that don’t just do not want to deal with the estate of MLK and his crazy, money-hungry children.

    Give us something better and not tired. Just because Oprah is in not – does NOT an Oscar-nom movie make.

    • slb says:

      Just like we’re tired of the countless WWII movies Hollywood trots out every year. Or how ’bout the mideast war/terrorist movies? There have not been countless theatrical releases made about MLK. That is why this movie was a big deal. And it was a very well made movie who’s director and lead actor were deserving of nominations.

  4. AgentCarter1946 says:


    12 Years A Slave

    Lupita Nyong’o
    Actress in Supporting Role (WINNER)


    Chiwetel Ejiofor
    Leading Actor (nominated – not won)

    Barkhad Abdi – Supporting Role (nominated – not won)
    Captain Phillips

    Other noms but did not win:
    Directing, Film Editing, Costume Design, Production Design

  5. Julienne says:

    On the contrary. Black ‘Race-Baiters’ like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Eric Holder & Barak Hussein, have left a sour taste in people’s mouths. Nobody wants to see a movie about racism, because of these guys.

    Selma will never see any kind of profit…unless buyers for Premium Channels pay exorbitant amounts of ‘White-Guilt’ monies to the Producers.

  6. steve barr says:

    I only wish people had been as concerned when Harvey Weinstein killed any chance The Immigrant had of being included in the conversation .

    • Vl3 says:

      You can’t be serious? Do you know anything about the civil rights movement? It didn’t just benefit blacks! I mean some of you are just freaking dumb. What does any of those people have to do with this article. How can you tire of history? No one says this of all the movies that go on and on about Jewish plight. Hollywood isn’t making “race” films by the dozen so pipe down already. The fact remains the screeners so lets get back on track here. And know if they want to make a million films about a movement that benefited black people, white women, gay people they can!

  7. davis2929 says:

    Back or white, folks these days always seem quick to blame anything/anyone else for the reason their film fails to connect with audiences and/or industry accolades. In this case, “Selma” was a competent film, but an all-too-familiar theme that failed to excite. Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow”, a great film, also suffered the same fate.

  8. Mike says:

    It’s 2015. Haven’t these folks heard of digital downloads? My understanding is that this is what they did with some of the really small films. They emailed it!!!

  9. Contessa46 says:

    Truth be told, the pace of the film was sooooooo slow, I almost fell asleep. I lived through this period of history and the news at the time was far more exciting. It is a time of history that should be told and retold but any lack of nominations was for a myriad of reasons which does NOT include racism and sexism.

  10. nycrn says:

    This situation is more a situation of screeners not being made avaliable to voters than racism. I don’t know who “they” are, but I’m sure I am not familiar with them, nor do I want to be.

  11. Bill B. says:

    What is all of t his nonsense about?! There were a few well directed films this year that didn’t get DGA nominations. Why are people making this a racial/sexist/screener thing like she was cheated for one reason or another. She wasn’t. I haven’t seen American Sniper yet, but I’ve seen the rest and I wouldn’t have voted for her. There were other directors who were not DGA nominated that I would have voted for over her as well. Selma’s a well made film, but there were quite a few more last year that were better. If you want to talk about people being left out, let’s talk about the best actor category. There are at least 5 Oscar worthy male performances this year that will not be nominated due to 2014 being a awesome year for male performances. If David Oyelowo doesn’t get nominated, will it be considered racist? With the great competition this year, he just might not be & it won’t be because of race. I preferred Cumberbatch, Gyllenhaal, Redmayne, Keaton and maybe even Hardy & Carell over him and I hear that Cooper gives his best performance to date in Sniper. I’ve also heard great things about Spall, Gleeson & Lithgow. Too many good things in one year! Many good things are going to get left out in a lot of categories. Someday maybe they’ll open up the number of possible nominees for other categories than picture. Is all hell gonna break lose if there are 7, for example, nominees for best actress some year? I don’t think so. Be better than people grumbling about why so and so didn’t get nominated for ridiculous reasons. Kinda like DuVernay this year.

    • Dex says:

      ” If David Oyelowo doesn’t get nominated, will it be considered racist?”

      @Bill B
      No, just questionable as it’s his powerful performance that anchors the film while Cumberbatch and Carell don’t quite do the same for theirs. Would be great to see Oyelowo nominated (though that’s not likely to happen) and Redmayne for the win. But chances are the Academy will see fit to give it to Keaton.

  12. Cecil B Da Mill says:

    Everyday people are pounded with race, and the entire subject regardless of where you are is getting tiresome.

  13. Jake says:

    I didn’t get screeners for Selma, interstellar or gone girl and wondered if that would affect voting. Paramount should have sent out screeners

  14. L.A. Harding says:

    It wasn’t well directed. Period. She does’nt deserve to be in the top 5. Nothing to do with race

  15. Glenn C. says:

    Yeah, don’t use the race card! Come on! I am so sick and tired of that! They always use the race card when in fact it could very well be something related to just the project or themselves not quite handling it right. This race card usage is way overused. An excuse.

    • Vl3 says:

      Who is “they”? People need to be mindful not to sound like those they claim are whining. Pipe down and speak directly to who is using the “race” card, unless you’re talking about Twitter, which is the who the article is talking about. I mean you wouldn’t be talking about people of color would you? No where did this article say that’s who was saying it was race. Perhaps you just assumed it was people of color. And it wasn’t only race but gender too, but some of you only saw “race” and blew your it could never be that gasket.

      I have no idea why Selma isn’t get noms it was an amazing film. I liked it, but I’m not a member of the academy. I’m just a film lover who enjoyed the film. Kinda sad if screners were/are the issue.

  16. Brockelman says:

    As a 40+ year SAG-AFTRA member who is not living in Los Angeles or New York, screeners are vital to my being able to cast an informed vote. I know it’s not just Paramount product that’s lacking presence—I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer screeners arrive each year for the past five. For intelligent award outcomes, guild members need access to the studios’ work.

  17. EK says:

    Backing of your earlier not a major factor stance. Consistency is a hallmark of intelligence, not waffling. Just ask Sony. That’s what comes from reacting from the hip and then rethinking. Analysis, to be respected as yours generally is, seeks clarity and Paramount squawking isn’t the point here either. Already the butt of some (some might say contrived) controversy, Selma needed to be seen. When it hasn’t been, it’s been ignored, regardless of the circumstances. Now it’s up to the tiny AMPAS directors branch to get it right. We’ll know soon enough.

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