Academy Award campaign consultants set for large paydays

25 February 2019 4 min. read
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The consultant behind the Oscar campaign for best picture-winner “Green Book” – as well as those who managed the award season rush of Rami Malek and Olivia Colman, who respectively won best actor and actress – are in for a windfall. 

A  contract recently obtained by film industry trade publication The Hollywood Reporter (THR), has revealed campaign consultants for Oscar nominees and winners stand to make big bucks. 

Monthly retainers typically start at around $25,000 per film, with top consultants sometimes working on two or three films per year – even those from competing studios. The higher the film climbs up the ladder, the bigger the money, according to the report. A best picture nomination garners a $25,000 bonus. A victory? An additional $50,000.

Nominations for best director, actor, and actress receive a $10,000 nomination reward, and an extra $20,000 for a win. Nominations and awards for original and adapted screenplay, supporting actor and actress, cinematography, best song, original score, film editing, art direction, visual effects, costume design, sound mixing, and sound editing earn consultants $5,000. Another $10,000 is added consultant behind the winning film’s wallet.  

Consultants often start working on film campaigns at the beginning of August, before large film festivals in Telluride, Venice, and Toronto. Before hiring consultants, studios choose potential awards candidates based on their potential, or “electability,” then go after Oscar voters – a group made up of more than 6,000 members of the 17 branches of the Academy of Motions and Pictures and Sciences – via targeted campaigns such as billboard and mailed advertisements, DVD screeners and private screenings, and media and industry events. Consultants are tasked with duties including “voter outreach, monitoring the competition, arranging screenings, working with awards press, sending out screeners, general strategy, and more,” according to THR.

What an Oscar is worth to a consultant, THR-made

A film’s Oscar potential greatly depends on the current social and political landscape, so studios must be tactical when choosing those films behind which to put their money. “A typical [film] campaign can cost between $3-5 million, said one awards consultant, though some have cracked an estimated $20 million. Among the costliest in recent history: “The Social Network,” released by Sony Pictures Entertainment, and this year’s “Roma,” which used its awards push to also market a movie that Netflix hoped would lead to more subscription sign-ups,” according to a recent article in the The Wall Street Journal. 

While campaigns for film awards are much less expensive and intensively orchestrated than those for political campaigns, there are many similarities between the two. It’s not strange, then, for consultants to play ball in both fields. But whether it’s movies or politicians, according to Jim Margolis, a political consultant who was a senior media adviser of Hillary Clintons 2016 presidential run, it’s important to think in terms or “archetypes” and values that currently appeal to the broadest range of people. If a film or a politician resonates with voters, there’s a much larger chance of garnering votes. Sometimes that archetype revolves around art, sometimes it is social issues, sometime it’s the being the “underdog” – what matters is that studios and consultants keep a sharp eye on what plays with what crowd at what point in time. 

“I think, for successful [political] candidates, there is a dimension that is not all about policy. It is much more about how people relate to and react to that person as an individual — to what they see in them,” Margolis said.

The 2019 Academy Awards were held last night in Los Angeles. In addition to “Green Book,” Malek, and Colman, awards went to Alfonso Cuarón for best director and best cinematography for “Roma” (which also won best foreign language film); Mahershala Ali for best supporting actor for “Green Book;” and Regina King, for best supporting actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”