Vol. 1 No. 2 2007


Rona’s Reel Take

Oscar & Hollywood
Too Many Movies, Too Little Time

By Rona Edwards

It is that season again -- when movies are thrust out there on screens, mostly in limited release in New York and Los Angeles, just so their hats can be thrown into the Oscar ring. Screenings have abounded here in Hollywood, as they do in New York. Studio marketing teams have been working overtime to reserve every possible theatre and screening room, laying out their Oscar campaigns to beat all Oscar campaigns and celebrate the art known as filmmaking.

I swear, I have been seeing at least three or four movies per week (and I could RSVP to more if my brain and senses were not on overload) at Producer’s Guild Screenings, Below-the-Line Screenings, other Guild screenings, movie theatres and the lists go on ad nauseam.

As if to sway the voting, a Q&A usually follows each screening with many of the film’s participants from producer to screenwriter, from director to cinematographer, from editor to production designer, et al. All hope that you will love their work enough to vote for them come Oscar balloting time. Of course, it is not just the Oscars these filmmakers aspire to win but also the individual guild awards (such as the Cinematographer’s Guild, the Writer’s, Director’s, Screen Actor’s, Producer’s, Art Director’s, and Editor’s…. You get the picture?) -- and the film critic’s awards such as the Golden Globe or the New York Film Critics Awards and the People’s Choice/MTV/Spirit Awards. Come February, all those jean-clad crewmembers dress up in their spiffy best, attending each respective guild ceremony with hopes and aspirations, if not to “win” then to be “seen.”

Making movies is all-encompassing. Most film-industry people live in a cocoon, working in their own worlds. In February and March, however, they get to come out into the glorious sunshine.

However, that is not my diatribe for this issue of Neworld. My problem is that we have to wait 10 months before anything really decent hits the screens, and we have the Oscar campaigns to blame for this glut of intellectual stimuli. Studios force-feed the public for months on movies that fall into one of four categories:

The winning profile is of films known for star power, challenging story-telling, sophisticated or epic tales of humanity and movies that excel on every level – story, acting, production values, writing and directing.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, the really good movies come out. Those movies have the provocative stories, the stellar performances and the masterful effects and direction. They have Oscar in their sights. What studios do not realize is that we, the guild members who vote, are on overload. How can we tell the difference between brilliance and mediocrity when there is a movie every other day that we must see to ascertain whether it deserves a “nod” or not?

My senses are already shot from the “must-see’ films that turn out to be the “not-obliged-to-see” works of my colleagues. The few that stand apart are hard to discern, though you hope, once in a while, that a few separate themselves from the pack of hopefuls and deservedly so.

It is simply not a fair way to judge movies. How did this all snowball? Was there a time when good movies were released all year long? Silence of the Lambs (1991) was released in spring, and it won an Academy Award. So what gives?

It all became clear to the studios that in order to win Oscars, “quality” movies needed to be released closer to the voting time, otherwise voters would forget (which does not say much for the voters, does it?) which good movies deserved the awards. That is why there is always a glut of movies at year-end for New York City and Los Angeles, though I wonder if the Midwest feels this same sense of excess? Some major films are not released to the rest of the country until after the first of the year.

Studio marketing campaigns only add to this pressure. These kinds of campaigns rival our Presidential campaigns in funds, as well as air time. We can thank the Bob and Harvey Weinstein for that. When they owned Miramax Films, which produced such indie greats as Shakespeare in Love (1998), Good Will Hunting (1997) and Gangs of New York (2002), in order to get them noticed far and above the big bad studios, they orchestrated publicity campaigns that surpassed the major studios’ marketing arms and brought home the bacon – Awards! They were such a threat to studio movies everywhere that even the Academy tried to initiate a kind of “campaign finance reform” by limiting the period in which one could stump for an Oscar. That is why the Oscar ceremony is now a month earlier than it used to be. However, all that did was kick the publicity campaigns a month earlier!

You might wonder why it is so important to win an Oscar. It all comes down to money. An Oscar adds profit to the box office for each film that wins. That, coupled with DVD rental revenue, broadcast-licensing fees and foreign distribution, adds dollars and cents to the profit margin. Obviously, it is worth spending all that money on P&A (publicity and ads) to catapult a film to victory.

So as long as a profit can be made in Hollywood, so too will we “working” professionals have to sit through movie after movie within a two-month period, hoping for that gem, hoping to be able to have five movies to fill the slot of nominees for Best Picture, to be able to separate the gold from the dross. However, if you believe the studios, they do not make a profit, and therefore cannot pay their writers, directors and actors nearly enough on DVD sales and Internet content, but that is a whole other article!

Rona Edwards is a motion picture/ television producer who also writes music reviews for the Folk Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME) on the net and feature articles for Produced By Magazine.

She co-wrote I Liked It, Didn’t Love It: Screenplay Development from The Inside Out, Lone Eagle Publishing. She is also the co-founder of ESE Film Workshops Online (www.esentertainment.net). You may also Check out Rona's blogHer blog .

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