Oscar Contenders: Hot Tips for Award-Campaign First-Timers

James Cameron Wonder Woman
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This is the honeymoon time for Oscar hopefuls, when every movie and every individual seem like a potential nominee. But it’s also a stressful period for first-timers, who’ve never been associated with an awards contender and have heard horror stories about the campaign trail.

To all of you hopefuls, congratulations on getting this far and stirring up positive buzz. And don’t worry: Campaigns can be fun. First, congratulations on doing great work. But awards season is long — four more months to go! — and you have some homework assignments:

1. Study the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rules as if you’re studying for a DMV driver’s test. Most of the rules are common sense, but be aware that there are some tricky areas. In the past 10 years, three individuals have been punished by the Academy. Two had their nominations revoked, for telephoning friends who are Oscar voters and soliciting their votes. A third was rebuked for emailing voters and urging them to pick his film, rather than a big-budget rival. His tickets to the show were taken away and he was forbidden to attend, even as a guest. In one case, AMPAS called it an “ethical lapse”; in another, they said it “creates the appearance of an unfair advantage.” You don’t want to join this group. Don’t be paranoid, but be careful.

2. Decide if you want to address hot-button topics. At multiple events, you will be asked the same questions over and over. In most cases, that’s OK: journalists are happy to get an exclusive quote about why your movie is so great. (You will get very bored at the sound of your own voice.) But occasionally journos will go off-topic. We live in a TMZ world and click-bait quotes are always useful. So they may ask about Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood diversity, climate change, anything juicy. If you want to speak up, feel free. On the other hand, think of James Cameron. In late August, he gave an interview to The Guardian, theoretically to plug the 3D “Terminator 2.” He also addressed ocean exploration, Mars, “Avatar,” marriage and personal growth. The interviewer asked about “Wonder Woman,” and his response was 46 words in a 2,000-word story. But that was the quote that electrified the Internet, as if he’d called a press conference to denounce the film and all women. In the digital age, every quote is taken out of context; almost none of those stories mentioned “Terminator 2.” So be aware that the “keyboard warriors” on the Internet may endlessly debate your point, even if they haven’t bothered to read the entire article.

3. Consider awards season like training for a marathon. It’s four months until the Academy Awards — and campaign season runs simultaneously with cold and flu season. You may be required to attend cocktail receptions, Q&As, meet & greets, etc. At every event, you will encounter germs. So eat well, take your vitamins, get hand sanitizer — CVS drug stores carry a small, pocket-size spray that’s invaluable. Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is a natural-born hugger. He actually seems to enjoy it. But don’t feel you need to do the same. This is not a one-size-fits-all world. Just be yourself, and consider fist-bumps instead of hugs and kisses.

4. Enjoy it. It’s exhausting, surreal. But it doesn’t happen often. So just go with it.