In Hollywood you cannot rely on the quality of your art to survive

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Los Angeles – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”: After a sharp drop in viewership at the Oscars ceremony was announced last week, as it deteriorated to nearly ten million viewers, which is the lowest in Oscars history, commentators and experts raced to present their opinions through the media about the reasons for this. Sharp retraction; Some of them blamed the Covid-19 pandemic, which prevented big films from launching in theaters, which prevented them from being qualified to compete and the presence of their stars on the red carpet. Others were not surprised by the decline, describing it as a continuation of the fading public interest in the Oscars, which began more than two decades ago, because it has become so Small films that audiences have not seen in theaters. The income of all Oscar nominated films for the best movie of the year reached 30 million dollars, while the winning film “Nomadland” earned nearly 6 million dollars at the box office, the lowest income achieved by an Oscar-winning movie. So how do these little movies win the Oscars?
In the first six decades of the Oscars, it was dominated by Hollywood studio films, which starred among their most prominent stars, and topped the box office tickets for theaters. But since the early 1990s, independent films started, which were shown in film festivals and artistic theaters only, appear in Oscar nominations and win some categories such as “My Left Foot”, “Sex, Lies, and Video” and “The Crying Game” thanks to unprecedented award campaigns. It was made by its producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein.

Collapse of the Weinstein Empire

In 1979, brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein founded the “Miramax” company to distribute artistic films produced by independent companies, which disappeared after they were shown in film festivals due to their inability to compete with the Hollywood films that dominated the theaters at the time, thanks to the huge advertising campaigns in which the major studios were investing.
Weinstein did not own huge studio budgets, and could not compete with them in the advertising campaign arena, which reached large audiences all over the world through major newspapers and other media such as television and radio. He decided to face it in the less expensive prize fights, because it required targeting only a few thousand voters, and so when a film nominated or wins an important prize, it arouses the interest of the media and reaches global audiences.
“Films will only succeed if they are praised,” Weinstein told me in an interview I conducted with him in 2015. “By the time the film is shown in cinemas, it will have won a festival or been nominated for Golden Globe Awards and possibly Oscars, so it is just a combination of those additions that pay someone. Finally to theaters. For example, if “My Left Foot” had not received the acclaim and five Oscar nominations, and if Daniel Day-Lewis had not won, there would have been no movie or success, and there was no reason to make another movie like it. Every winning film paves the way for the next stage. ”
In the Irish Film “My Left Foot” award campaign, Weinstein persuaded the film crew and cast to move from Ireland to Los Angeles during award season, and arranged for them wild night parties at which he also hosted award voters and critics to identify them. “His business model was to get prizes at any cost, he had no other choice,” said Tony Angelotti, who Weinstein hired in 1991 to work on his promotional campaigns. “I remember he showed me Billy Bob Thorton’s movie“ Slings Blade, ”which lost a business after its release, and he told me: I want you to live with this movie for the next six months and focus on it, so it won an Oscar. The same goes for the Italian movie “The Postman,” which failed in the United States, but after eight months we got an Oscar for it. “
Weinstein wanted to win the most important Oscar, which is the best movie, and he was sure he would get it for Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece “Ball Fiction”, but Hollywood, which also controlled the Academy of Motion Picture Science and Arts, denied it and awarded it to the Paramount studio (Forrest Gump in 2003). 1995 The independent film distributor decided to take revenge on her.
When he was promoting the “English Patient” in 1997, he broke the rules of the Oscars campaigns. He sent the film on video tapes to the voters’ homes and then called them all to make sure they watched it, and he invited the prize voters to loud parties to get to know the film crew and flooded them with gifts. With nine Oscars, including Best Picture. “The most important thing about Oscars is for voters to watch the movie,” Weinstein says. “Simply, if you don’t watch the movie, you won’t vote for it, so I have to somehow get you to see my movie, and that takes a tremendous amount of effort.”
“It was like the Wild West at the time,” says Angelotti. “There were no rules to break.” “He was trying something, and if he was told he couldn’t do it, he would stop. The matter was not as hostile in the seventies and eighties as it has been in the nineties and even today. Studios films were known and did not need award campaigns, and the studios had enough money to promote their films when they were launched in theaters. ” The massive “English Patient” Oscar victory prompted Weinstein to fight an awards battle against Hollywood King Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece “Saving Private Ryan” with his comic movie “Shakespeare in Love” using a new type of campaign, the negative campaign, which he often used with me as a voter for the Golden Globe Awards. ; When I was praising a movie produced by another studio in front of him, he would approach me and whisper in my ears something negative about that movie, and urge me to watch his film and pay attention to some of its distinctive elements, or he would tell me an interesting story about the director or one of his actors.
The movie “Saving Private Ryan” surpassed “Shakespeare in Love” on all levels, but Weinstein raised rumors that it was nothing but a thrilling, bloody battle in World War II, while promoting that his film “Shakespeare in Love”, which centers on William Shakespeare falling in love with an actress in his play, It honors literature, theater and the art of acting, which convinced the writers and actors, who make up the majority of Oscar voters, to vote for it, which resulted in its winning of six awards, including the best film.
The victory of “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan” shocked Hollywood and the film industry. So the studios decided to follow Weinstein’s campaigning approach in order to confront him, and began to snatch his employees and assistants to work for themselves and run their campaigns. The Weinstein model now relies on all independent film companies such as “Fox Searcherlight” that produced “Nomadland” and relies on drawing the medias attention and alerting filmmakers that if they bring their films to these companies they will get an Oscar campaign, and “it worked,” says Angelotti, who He became the director of campaigns for “Universal Studios”, “Disney Animation” and “Pixar” and won several awards for her, including Oscars for best films such as “Green Book”, “Game Story 3 and 4”, “Brave” and “Up”. The most recent was the Pixar film “Spirit,” which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature last week.
Angelotti stresses that no movie can ever be nominated or win an Oscar without a promotion campaign. Before the award season begins, it sits with studios to select the films with the highest chances of nomination or award winning, based on their elements that may attract prize voters. Then they agree on an interesting and attractive narrative of the “Golden Globes” and “BAFTA” votes, professional unions and the Oscar.
“Instead of trying to sell the movie to a billion people on this planet, we’re trying to sell it to a few thousand voters,” Angelotti says. “You have to know what they like about the movie. It then designs advertisements and editorial narratives and presents them to the press, produces new materials, and enlists the services of the film’s producers, directors, and actors to convey that message. Usually, this is just a different form of the promotional film launch campaign, and sometimes it is completely different.

The awards do not focus on the artistic value of the films

Prize campaigns seldom focus on the artistic value of films and sometimes ignore their content when they feel that the rival film is outperforming them, looking for other elements that contribute to attracting the interest of voters. Such as the race or gender of the film makers, or the relevance of its subject matter with contemporary political and social events.
At the end of 2009 James Cameron’s movie “Avatar” was at the top of the box office, and speculation about winning Oscars thanks to his artistic creativity and his warning about the effects of environmental destruction. That is why the campaign of his ex-wife Catherine Bigelow’s film “The Pain Cabinet”, which was ignored by movie audiences in theaters, did not try to confront him. The technical and content level. She even sheds light on the fact that Bigelow is a woman who makes the “Macho” movie about bombers in the Iraq war, in making films dominated by men.
Thus, the battle between the two films turned into a competition between a man and his wife, and the Oscar voters chose the wife and made history, as Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director and Best Film.
In 2017, the musical film “La La Land” won the Oscar for the best film for sure. However, its campaign deteriorated after Donald Trump took over the presidency of the United States that year and incited against ethnic minorities, so he faced counter-campaigns accusing him of racism for using white figures to present a novel about Jazz, which prompted Oscar voters to award Best Film to “Moonlight”, the first film all black actors have to do so.
“Hollywood has adopted politicians campaign tactics in Washington, ”Angelotti laughs.” Some are ugly, but all studios deny their involvement in negative campaigns and refuse to approach them. But Weinstein was not shy about using it and was known to be behind it. ”
Although the academy tried to curb Weinstein by imposing restrictions on his campaigns, he continued to win Oscars, with 81 of them and 341 nominations, until he was ostracized from Hollywood in 2017 after he was accused of sexual harassment. These days, most of the award campaigns are led by his disciples, who still follow his approach.
“In Hollywood, you cannot rely on the quality of your art to survive,” Angelotti says. “If you want to achieve something or win a prize, you have to ask for it, or no one cares for you.”
If like Hollywood, the Oscars are a business, in which studios invest millions of dollars in order to arouse the interest of the masses in their films and raise their income at the box office or on electronic broadcasting platforms or raise the level of their stock prices on the stock exchange.



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