Festivals remain a crucial gateway to an Oscar.
Noël gauges buzz around new NFB films at Annecy and Animafest Zagreb, and this informs which films the organization will choose to push for an Academy Award. Berthe Siward keeps a close watch on a wide range of festivals, adding that Annecy is a crucial forum for watching films and making contacts.
But they aren’t the only launchpad for an awards campaign.
Berthe Siward adds that filmmakers constantly approach him, and he ends up working with some of them. He also learns of films through word of mouth.
The filmmakers’ participation in the campaign is essential.
Voters don’t just want to see films in the running — they’re also keen to meet the directors and producers and learn about their creative process, through on-stage Q&As and informal socializing. After all, these filmmakers may end up joining them in the Academy, which Berthe Siward says is like “a big family.”
Speaking good English helps, but isn’t the be all and end all.
Of course, when on campaign, filmmakers need to be able to communicate with their audiences. Berthe Siward ensures that filmmakers he works with get a degree of media training, but he adds that not being American can be an asset: voters may be curious about your background, or even charmed by your accent.
A nomination alone can transform one’s career.
In the week leading up to the Oscar ceremony — the final stage of campaigning for nominated films — “Hollywood’s doors are wide open,” says Berthe Siward. This is the time to maximize networking with agents and potential collaborators. Both Berthe Siward and Noël speak extensively with their filmmakers to understand their career goals, and organize the campaign accordingly.
The Academy is diversifying.
Membership isn’t as dominated by coastal U.S. as it used to be, and campaigns are adapting to this. Aside from its possible implications for what gets nominated, this fact also means that speaking slick English is perhaps less important for filmmakers on campaign than it used to be.
Some publicists are dodgy.
Berthe Siward says that, early in his career, he felt misled by a publicist he worked with on campaign who didn’t quite deliver the promised services. Noël agrees that this is a risk, and suggests asking others with campaign experience to recommend good publicists.
The pandemic has pushed campaigning online.
Berthe Siward has launched a streaming service for the films he’s representing this year, which is accessible (for free) to members of the industry. Noël’s team has contacted studios individually to create bespoke formats for virtual film screenings and Q&As.
You can watch the full discussion (in French) below:
Image at top: “Garden Party,” which was nominated at the 2017 Oscars. Berthe Siward worked on its campaign.