In the months leading up to the Academy Awards red carpet each year, most of the stars in the race travel the world, attending premieres and screenings, and working with industry VIPs to promote their films and themselves.
oscar Election campaigning is a multimillion dollar industry. While the Academy has strict rules to ensure that exceptional films and performances win fair and square, this year’s unexpected nominations Andrea Riseborough The Best Actress category has been debated over how the process works.
In the wake of the controversy, Academy President Janet Yang told Sky News that campaign rules would be revisited after this year’s ceremony, with a particular focus on the “changing environment” of social media. “We’re going to have to buckle down and look very closely at the regulations that have been with us for some time,” he said. “There are a number of things that were not addressed in the current campaign rules that we now feel the need to address.”
How does promotion work?
Campaigning can include everything from advertising to red carpets to getting actors to do the right interviews, all to create the narrative that a film and its stars are Oscar-worthy. Why do movie studios do this? Well, there were 301 films eligible for this year’s Oscars – they need to focus on their movies.
The Academy has strict rules surrounding the “annual rites” of the campaign, including limits on the number of mailings studios can send and on promotional materials, lobbying, and parties.
Amazingly, the nominees are prohibited from publicly making negative or derogatory statements about their rivals. Penalties for those who violate the rules may include disqualification and any current members of the Academy (usually past winners) may face suspension or expulsion.
life on the campaign trail
The Banshees of Inishrin Stars at a reception for Oscar nominees held in London in February, days after the Oscars luncheon in LA Colin FarrellRubbed side by side with fellow acting nominees including Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Hui Quan, as well as industry veterans.
“this is madness!” When asked about the work going on in the run-up, Condon said. “It’s like another skill you have to be good at, chatting up people and getting your picture taken and all kinds of things that you can’t think of as an actor. And you have to get good at them fast.”
For some, it’s all good fun. Take Everything Everywhere star Kwan, who has made no secret of his excitement. “The way the audience has accepted the film is beyond our imagination,” he added. “I’m enjoying awards season so much… it’s been a wild ride.”
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But this can be a difficult task. Producer Gareth Ellis-Unwin picked up his Best Picture Oscar in 2011 for The King’s Speech and is now an Academy Award (and BAFTA) voter. “It took me by surprise,” he says of the more than three months of promotion for the film. “It was like running for local office.”
In 2016, former winner Susan Sarandon spoke out against the process, comparing it to the race to become the US President in terms of cost and length. Speaking on a panel at that year’s Cannes Film Festival, he called for reform of campaign finance. “People have to be available for months and someone has to pay for it,” she said.
Twelve years after her win, Ellis-Unwin, who is now head of film and animation at the charity Screen Skills, says things are changing.
“Now you can focus on one film project or TV show and not have the same marketing spend as 10 years ago. Our distributors joked that it cost about $30 million to market our film for the awards ceremony. Which is double the budget for the film.”
Why was Riseborough’s nomination surprising?
The British actress’ approval for her performance in To Leslie – a short indie film in which she plays an alcoholic single mother who wins the lottery – was unexpected as there had not been enough buzz around her beforehand.
And because black actresses who had that buzz — Viola Davis, for The Woman King, and Danielle Deadweiler, for Till Miss. While Davis, Deadwiler and others played a more traditional campaign game, Riseborough’s nomination came in the wake of praise on social media from A-listers including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Edward Norton.
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There is no suggestion that Riseborough himself did anything wrong. But the controversy has raised questions about what election campaigns look like in the future, and sparked a debate about opportunity and racism in the film industry.
Shortly after this year’s shortlist was announced, the Academy launched a review to ensure that no campaign rules had been broken. After a short investigation, the organization said it “discovered social media and outreach campaign tactics that caused concern around Leslie”, but not to a level that should cause Riseborough to lose his head.
Yang told Sky News it was an “unusual situation” but that no rules had been broken “based on the current rules”.
Can voters really be manipulated?
When it comes to aggressive promotion, industry insiders say it started with a disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, He allegedly started a whisper campaign against Steven SpielbergSaving Private Ryan in 1999, when it was in the running for Best Picture alongside his own film Shakespeare in Love – which won. The Academy has since tightened its publicity rules.
Addressing the Riseborough controversy, Janelle Riley, features editor of the American entertainment publication Variety, says that “the entire industry is devoted to propaganda” but that Academy voters will ultimately choose the films and stars they believe are deserving.
“The Academy is going to do what they want to do and vote for what they want,” she says. “Nobody can force you to check his name is on the ballot. If people voted for him, it’s because they wanted to.
“Anyone who’s seen To Leslie isn’t going to argue that she didn’t deserve to be nominated … The truth is, she’s an embarrassment of riches. Part of me believes she should have been nominated.” The number of people enrolled should be increased.”
Can Riseborough win?
There may be a problem at the last moment, but it seems less likely. Not necessarily because of the campaign’s scrutiny, but because the Best Actress category was bound to be a two-horse race between Cate Blanchett (Tar) and Yoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) even before the nominations were announced.
Matthew Belloni, former editor of The Hollywood Reporter and founding partner of digital media company Puck, says “the nomination is a victory” for Riseborough.
However, he says he does not believe the investigation has hurt his chances. “If anything, I think it picked up some votes because people didn’t like that the campaign was condemned. Members I talked to thought it was ridiculous that they could potentially be punished for it.” is being done,” he said.
Future rule changes?
Belloni described the To Leslie campaign as innovative, bypassing traditional methods of advertising, throwing parties and “putting the talent on a circuit of interviews and handshaking”.
Without a big budget behind them, they built support on social media.
Despite the Academy’s decision not to withdraw Riseborough’s nomination, Belloni says he believes the scandal will lead to further changes to rules limiting social media activity.
“I think it’s going to change things. I think we’re going to see new rules and it’s going to update the Academy’s code of conduct for the social media age,” she said.
You can watch the Academy Awards on Sunday 12 March at 11pm exclusively on Sky News and Sky Showcase. And for everything you need to know ahead of the ceremony, don’t miss our exclusive Backstage podcast, available now, as well as a winner’s special episode from Monday morning.