Throwing a major awards luncheon with 700-800 attendees who are all used to hosting their own massive events may sound intimidating. However, for Tim Menke and Sheryl Main, chairs of the Local 600 Intl. Cinematographers Guild Publicist Awards, which takes place March 25 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, it’s a gratifying experience with a history that originated 59 years ago.
The guild bestows awards in categories including publicist of the year, career achievement in publicity, excellence in unit still photography, international and domestic press journalists, and television and motion picture campaigns of the year. This year, the guild is also honoring Francis Ford Coppola with a lifetime achievement award.
2022’s publicist nominees grappled with the added challenge of working while strapped into the COVID rollercoaster. Constantly shifting release dates and acceptable practice for in-person events led to a ceaseless rescheduling of calendars as media, and audience expectations, shifted.
Marshall Weinbaum, studio global publicist for Walt Disney Studios and publicist of the year nominee, notes that he and the Disney team had to “find ways to capture an audience who were used to seeing something one way and now everything is shifted.”
Of the many projects he’s worked on over the past year, Weinbaum is most proud of “WandaVision,” the first Marvel Studios Disney Plus show. “We were working on it in the height of the pandemic last winter,” he recalls, “and I think the whole team pulled rabbit after rabbit out of hats with how amazing [it was, not to mention] getting the campaign off the ground knowing we could barely leave our houses.”
The ICG event is unique in that it honors people who are markedly necessary for every production from streaming to theatrical and are yet uninvolved in the direct creation of these very projects.
For the still photographers, it’s a matter of capturing the essence of what they see on set in a single snap. There must be a reason for each photo, and a way in which it can be utilized to help publicize the production. The publicists then use the images, along with their other resources, to promote movies and television series that span every genre and medium. The assignment to popularize the projects stands regardless of quality, and each must plan precisely for maximum effect.
“We’re always behind the scenes, but it’s very important for us to take one day out of the year [as a] timeout and celebrate who we are and what we do,” Menke says.
Main, herself a unit publicist, notes that even in the midst of pandemic-related lockdowns, artists were still creating.
“Content was still out there,” she says. “People that were staying at home had something to watch and publicists were working day and night.”
Contributing to the various publicity blitzes were the still photographers. Hopper Stone, nominee for excellence in unit still photography — motion pictures, says, “the fact that we got anything done in these conditions [means] the entertainment industry needs to collectively pat itself on the back.”
While the endless protocols on set were challenging, Stone’s work is actually from prior to the pandemic. With embargos in place for films ahead of their premieres, the movie photographers can only provide work product from what was released in the current year, thus shot outside the pandemic.
His submitted photos from “An American Pickle” and “Superintelligence” were chosen because he strives to find “moments that show I thought about when I was pressing the shutter.”
Stone is honored by the recognition, particularly knowing that his colleagues had a hand
in the process.
In fact, the membership returned their ballots in record numbers this year.
“There’s a lot of interest and people want to participate, more so than ever,” says Menke.