‘People are so zoomed out’: The impact of Covid-19 on the 2021 Oscars campaigns
In typical awards season, movie studios are hitting industry voters. Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles is covered with “For Your Consideration” billboards for films that hold a good image; press and industry executives travel to splashy parties by invitation only; media coverage intensifies; special screenings offer questions and answers with the film’s actors and directors; journalists are bombarded with DVDs and online streams.
“At the start of the final Oscar season, I went to the Hollywood premiere of Netflix Irish“, Remember Filmmaker Magazine editor Tim Molloy in an email. “Director Martin Scorsese and all the stars – Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel – came out and personally presented the film. Netflix brought in journalists from across the country. Next, we headed to a glamorous poolside gala where we ate exquisite food, smoked hand-rolled cigars, and debated the movie and Scorsese’s career late into the night, against a backdrop. looking like a 1950s blue collar neighborhood. I will never forget it. “
These opulent cases are just a few of the ways the studios make love to the press and Academy voters, who decide who wins the Academy Awards each year. Studios usually don’t talk about the process, as most would like to keep the look of a merit-based system, and yet: “I would never say you can buy an Oscar”, Hollywood journalist Awards columnist Scott Feinberg said over the phone. “But I think you can buy your place in the conversation.”
It all came to a screeching halt this awards season, however, thanks to the still-ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which virtually wiped out the film in person in 2020. As generally bustling theaters were empty across the United States , the outings were postponed and postponed again. Movies that came out in 2020 have streamed on streaming platforms like Netflix, Prime, HBO Max, and Hulu. This drastic industry-wide shift has also resulted in a markedly different campaign experience, even as vaccine deployments intensify and prices show producers find ways to inject fun into ceremonies. Zoom heavy.
Of course, there are still plenty of “FYC” billboards lining the streets of Los Angeles this year. But what does the campaign lose when audiences can’t see movies in theaters, event spaces can’t host industry parties, and Q&A featuring top talent are relegated to appeals? Zoom?
Feinberg notes that those most affected by a clean campaign year are the drivers and caterers who normally transport talent and gifts to studio-sponsored awards ceremonies, not to mention pre-dinner dinners, lunches, and cocktails. . parties. “The food and restaurant industry and auto services are not getting any of the business they normally would get,” he says. “All the studios are sending all the talent into cars with drivers, and none of that is happening this year. It all stopped. It was a huge hit for the Oscar industrial complex, if you want to call it that. There are now a ton of people whose activities largely revolve around this annual exercise. “
Feinberg also claims Academy voters, many of whom are older, just aren’t as engaged this year. This is due to a number of factors: Studios, for example, are phasing out DVD filters in favor of streaming. If you are a former Academy member, you may not have the patience to deal with technological change. And when it comes to streaming platforms, older voters are more familiar with Netflix by default, simply because Netflix has been around the longest compared to its competition. “I think it’s no coincidence that this year Netflix has, I believe, 35 nominations, including two top nominees and nominees in each acting category,” says Feinberg.
When it comes to screenings and Q&A with talent, those still happen – but on Zoom. Feinberg noticed a decrease in interest here too. “People are so zoomed out,” he says. “Because they Zoom in their personal lives, they Zoom for work, and then they are asked to Zoom (or some variation of it) for being part of Oscar season.”
Plus, he says, there’s something special about being physically in a room with celebrities when they’re promoting movies for awards. Without it, participation around awards season has been, according to Feinberg, “depressed.”
Q&A about the press and the rewards circuit also tend to be divisive, depending on who you ask. If you are an industry veteran, a virtual event may seem convenient as there is no travel and no fuss. If you’re new to the scene, their highly staged nature can put a damper on organic networking.
If you’re an Oscar nominee, “there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get another [chance] to that, ”says Feinberg. “Someone having a really good time, let’s take an example [Promising Young Woman director] Emerald Fennell… She misses a lot of stuff because she’s in England, it’s the middle of the night that most people do promotional stuff. And she didn’t get her movie [screened] apart from Sundance. So you wonder if it’s alright [prevent people from] become more familiar with it, as they normally would during awards season.
On the other hand, a movie like Nomadland, who is in the running for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director, has enjoyed this season of awards – from a marketing standpoint, at least. The Hulu and Searchlight drama, about an older woman (Frances McDormand) who becomes “homeless” and travels across the American West in her van, has been shown in many drive-in theaters during the pandemic. The vehicular coincidence of the film’s plot and the way people view films affected by Covid seems to have been a good thing for the budget otherwise. Nomadland, which should sweep the Oscars.
All was not lost. Molloy postulates that even a campaign season affected by Covid has put a renewed emphasis on award-winning films, and that it’s less about wins and shallow dinners. “It’s less about the glare than any other time I can remember over the past decade,” he says. “Partly that’s a good thing – we shouldn’t judge movies by their lavish premieres. But it would be nice to at least see the movies on the big screen. And I sure wouldn’t mind two or three parties.