Making an award-winning film requires more than just a great script, superlative performances, and brilliant direction. If producers really want their movie to bring home the hardware, they need to be prepared to spend months and millions of dollars on a coordinated campaign. Here’s how they pull it off.
1. THEY CAREFULLY TIME THEIR RELEASE DATES.
Ever notice how you see so many award-winning performances when you head to the movies around the holidays? That’s not an accident. Studios release their top films at the end of the year so they’ll still be fresh in voters’ minds when it’s time to choose award nominees.
2. THEY BUILD A CAMPAIGN STAFF.
To walk away with the really prestigious trophies, you’re going to need manpower. Publicists can receive upwards of $15,000 for planning an awards-season campaign, plus bonuses if their film actually wins. In one recent year, a top producer even hired a former presidential campaign manager to push his movie. It paid off—the film took home 47 trophies over the course of the awards season.
3. THEY SHELL OUT BIG MONEY FOR ADVERTISEMENTS.
Those magazine ads and giant billboards aren’t just there to attract filmgoers. Studios place advertising in key industry publications as part of their efforts to reach members of the press and award voters. During awards season, a one-page spot in a top journal can set producers back more than $70,000!
4. THEY HOST LAVISH PARTIES.
Again, you’ve got to stay in front of the voters who could cast a ballot for your film. Buttering up voters with an over-the-top bash complete with fancy eats, cocktails, and the film’s marquee stars is common practice. This tactic has become so widespread that one major awards show made a rule to curb it: After nominations are announced, the hosts of screening events may not serve food or drink. And those associated with a film (i.e. the A-list actors) can only make appearances at two events a season.
5. THEY COURT THE PRESS.
Industry insiders aren’t the only ones who clean up on free meals. Studio execs and producers wine and dine press members that they view as influential. They also go to great lengths to set up meetings between journalists and their movie’s top stars. Studios set up these interviews because they’re banking that once a journalist has put in some face-to-face time with a star, they’ll be less likely to write something negative about their films.
6. THEY FLOOD THE VOTERS WITH SCREENERS.
Voters aren’t going to cast a ballot for a film or performance that they haven’t seen, so studios spend serious coin distributing screeners (copies of the movie) to anyone with a vote. One studio allegedly spent $250,000 getting its screeners out!
7. AND HIT THEM WITH TRINKETS, TOO.
These screeners are often accompanied by a cute tchotchke, chosen in an effort to win over voters and members of the press. Who doesn’t want a movie-branded musical instrument?
8. THEIR STARS GET THE WORD OUT.
And it goes beyond your standard magazine cover interview. One well-known actor wrote a letter urging critics to recognize the talents of his costar. A film producer wrote a gushing, 1,900-word essay about the making of his movie. And an actress placed glamorous photo ads of herself in trade magazines. Each move was designed to garner attention — and votes — for the project.
9. STARS WORK THE PARTY CIRCUIT, TOO.
Potential trophy winners devote months to making appearances at red carpet events, boozy bashes, and smaller awards shows so they can glad-hand with key insiders and remain relevant in voters’ minds.
10. THEY LAUNCH SMEAR CAMPAIGNS.
During one recent awards season, a film producer was banned from a major show for emailing voters and asking them to pick his independent film over an unnamed movie with a blockbuster budget. The statuettes may be shiny, but sometimes you have to play dirty to win one.
If you’re surprised that show business can be a little underhanded, Adam Conover is ready to shatter more Hollywood myths. To get the truth about more misconceptions related to the everyday stuff we take for granted, tune in to an all new episode of Adam Ruins Everything, Tuesday, August 23 at 10/9C on truTV.