It's nice to think of the Oscars as a happy-cry night where red carpets are rolled out for hard-won dreams, but we all know that's just an illusion. The best man, woman, or movie does not always win, and it takes a lot more than talent and vision to bring home an award. It takes a strategy, a fat wallet, and a lot of work. In short, it takes a full-on Oscar campaign.
When you first hear about all this politicking, it's a little disheartening. But, these campaigns aren't always icky things. Parties, talk-show appearances, actor and director Q&As are all part of the process, and the only thing that separates them from typical film promotion is that they happen after the release date. Between the ads (which range from gentle reminders to gratuitous cries), the smear tactics, and the PR stunts, the line between good and bad taste becomes blurred. And, let's not forget the money.
Last year, KPCC, a Pasadena-based public radio station, talked to Hollywood publicist Ziggy Kozlowski about what it actually costs to woo the Academy. Just getting nominated, Kozlowski said, runs an independent writer or director at least $200,000 out of pocket. Yet, comparatively, that's nothing. The exact price of a studio-backed campaign is hard to pin down, but Hurt Locker producers estimate its winning 2010 strategy cost about $3 to $5 million, (though the movie's competitors say the number would be more accurate if it were tripled). All in all, the Oscar-campaign business is estimated to be a $150 million industry.