The challenge with throwing an annual event for more than 700 people is how to keep attendees engaged without recreating a “Groundhog Day” luncheon year after year. Tim Menke and Sheryl Main, reigning chairs of Local 600’s International Cinematographer’s Guild Publicists Awards, are up to the challenge.
This year’s celebration at the Beverly Hilton on March 10 marks 60 years of recognizing the individuals and teams whose job it is to promote entertainment content. “It is a luncheon, but it’s also part of seeing where we’re at in the industry, the importance of publicity and the work that we do,” says Main.
This year, some of the nominated campaigns include a “Top Gun: Maverick” (pictured above) promotion that saw James Cordon taking to the skies, a specially curated warrior workout tied to “The Woman King” and murder mystery dinners to boost “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
Publicist of the year nominee Michelle Alt points out that the campaign challenges aren’t always the obvious. When it comes to her work on “Jackass Forever,” though the brand has been around for decades, that didn’t mean it was immediately recognizable to some younger moviegoers. And, unlike when the original series aired on MTV, audiences now can readily watch these types of antics on social media through TikTok and YouTube.
“How do you show people there’s a need for movies besides the superhero movies, to get people back into the theater?” asks Alt. It’s far easier to wait for movies to hit the streaming services than to expend the effort and spend the money on going out, she notes. So, Alt and her fellow nominees find themselves not only promoting projects in terms of visibility, but also striving to encourage theatergoing, especially coming out of the pandemic.
The publicists also find themselves cross-pollinating. “One of the biggest highlights is not just working with the press, but also working with personal publicists,” explains Alt. They collaborate to determine how to best benefit the actors individually, as well as the respective films.
Such an abstract concept can be hard to understand. “My parents still don’t know what I do!” laughs Alt.
Whether it’s working on a sequel or an original property, a studio tentpole or a niche indie, publicists are versatility personified. Career achievement in publicity nominee Carol McConnaughey started her trajectory with Universal’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the franchise’s third installment, and has worked on each one since, including this year’s “Fast X.” Her other recent projects include Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam,” starring Dwayne Johnson, and Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion,” starring Eddie Murphy. Her expertise spans genres and studios.
“It keeps you on your toes,” says McConnaughey of her successful decades-long career.
The political science major found her industry niche fairly quickly. “Luckily, public relations was the first thing that I tried,” she notes of the job she loves, which involves putting the creatives she works with front and center for entertainment purposes.
Some of the luncheon’s additional awards include best television publicity campaign, excellence in still photography for film and television, a press award and an international media award.
The organization will also recognize writer, producer and actor Quinta Brunson, the force behind “Abbott Elementary,” as the television showperson of the year. There will also be a special tribute to Fran Zell, the final president of Publicists Guild Local 818 from before its 2002 merger with Local 600. “We want to honor our history,” explains Main.