What the Academy's new campaign rules and regulations really mean

Posted by · 2:10 pm · September 21st, 2011

The Academy today dropped via press release its annual list of rule clarifications and changes regarding campaigning procedures, but while most are acknowledging the adjustments to post-nominations events and gatherings (like, say, blatant campaigning via private parties with AMPAS guest lists hosted for contending talent — no longer permitted), my colleague Greg Ellwood has drilled down and noted probably the biggest bombshell of all in the announcement.

Before the nominations are revealed, it looks to be open season.

Greg quotes from the press release as follows: “Prior to the nominations announcement (January 24, 2012), there are no restrictions on screening events to which Academy members may be invited. These events may include the live participation of individuals involved with the film (Q&A panel discussions, etc.) as well as receptions with food and beverage.”

What he surmises from this is that studios “can clearly go after just Academy voters if they want and, moreover, can drop having to participate in third party screening series such as the Variety or Envelope staples.” This all may seem like the kind of ink you gloss over while following an Oscar race, but these changes could — and likely will — substantially impact the season.

Greg notes that, if a studio is willing to spend the money, the sky is the limit on booking pre-nominations screenings. And so I’m suddenly reminded of “Moneyball”: poor teams faced with the pocket book reality of rich teams.

Also bolstered here is the desire for Academy members to see films in a theatrical setting, rather than lazily throwing in their screeners around the holidays while the turkey needs to be checked every hour or grandchildren are darting around demanding attention. The broadening of pre-nominations screening allowance, Greg argues, provides more opportunity for members to see films in a theater, as well as added incentive for them to attend, since there are no restrictions on talent appearing for Q&As at these events. And who doesn’t want to come see George Clooney flash that smile a thousand times while stumping for “The Descendants?”

All of this gives us a nice opportunity, by the way, to indicate the differences in coverage between Greg’s Awards Campaign blog and our neck of the woods here, now that we’re both under the HitFix banner. I’ve been asked about this a few times since the move, so allow me to illustrate.

Greg is well-versed in the cutthroat world of film publicity, having “survived working for two major studios,” as his bio points out, and having done his time on Oscar campaigns over the years. He tends, therefore, to cover the season from a campaign and business perspective, hence the name of his space. We cover that here to an extent, but our focus is more often on season analysis and prognostication, with a healthy dose of film opinion and Oscar history to boot. The synergy of the two will make HitFix a dynamite outlet for awards season coverage, I have no doubt, but hopefully that clears up the perspectives we will separately take.

Meanwhile, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before Oscar campaign strategists finally key into the spoils today’s press release have left for them.

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