“I can’t believe I am hosting the Oscars. It’s an honor everyone else said no.” – Seth MacFarlane
While I hang my hat on the fact that I’ve represented 58 Academy Award-winning celebrities, in my Hollywood it’s fair to say that the entertainment industry is one of the most self-congratulatory industries next to ... well, there isn’t one.
To give you an idea of the overinflated grandiosity that is “Oscar Season,” open any February issue of Variety or the Hollywood Reporter and you’ll find the amount of advertising directed toward industry insiders with voting power rivals that of most presidential campaigns. Of course, unlike campaign promises, at least we know movies are lies when we walk in the door.
However, the truth is that the amount of money created from the awards industry is actually a better example of trickle-down economics than even trickle-down economics! That’s because when take away the smoke and mirrors, what you’re left with is a marketing machine for the entertainment industry, and as a 20-year veteran of the PR industry, to the general public I offer a wholehearted apology ... and a solid “You’re welcome!”
Here’s the simple truth: Movies studios get a second shot at your business by reminding you about all of the movies that were released the year before, which by the way for the year 2013 was 827. Let famed movie producer Harvey Weinstein tell it: “When we talk about Oscars, it’s almost as a symbol of excellence, and the American public and the worldwide public accept that symbol.” Which to Harvey is absolutely correct, as he’s in the business of making money.
However, from the artistic side, the opinions seem a bit more honest such as James Cromwell who said, “The Academy Awards were basically created by the industry to promote pictures. They weren’t really to acknowledge the performances. Then it became sort of this great popularity contest and now, it’s an incredible show and it’s seen all over the world.” Keep in mind, words spoken by a man who starred in 58 theatrical releases, and who’s only Oscar nomination was for a movie about a pig that knows how to talk. To clarify, I’m referring to “Babe,” not 2007’s “Becoming Jane.”
Now when you watch an award show such as the Oscars, you get to see the winners walk on cloud nine, while the losers feel like they got punched in the stomach. However, if you think that’s bad, it’s the after-parties where celebrities can feel like they’re getting kicked square in the teeth. Sure, I’ve seen Gary Busey partying like it’s 1999, but that might not be the best example considering, for starters, he has some incredibly huge teeth and, secondly, in his mind it still is 1999.
Oscar after-parties are almost like an award show in and of themselves, since celebrities find out very quickly exactly where they stand within the industry based on which after-party they’re allowed into. My personal favorite, and the ultimate goal, is the party thrown by Vanity Fair. This party is so exclusive, oftentimes celebrities aren’t invited two years in a row. I should know, I was just there to give them back all of the subscription cards that constantly fall out of the magazine.
But even when celebrities lose they win, since the more rich and famous you get, the more stuff you get for free. Why? Because marketers are slyly perpetuating the endorsement machine by giving away products they want celebrities to use, display and brag about ... sort of like a real-life product placement. In fact, according to an ABC news story, the gift bags handed out to 2014’s nominees were valued in the neighborhood of $55,000! Not to get too real here, but that’s more than the annual salary of many families ... and I’m guessing these days Skeet Ulrich. (You’re thinking “Who?” My point exactly.)
I think it’s fair to say that the only people who take award shows with any level of seriousness are the ones who happen to be nominated. After all, it’s brand recognition to be able to put “Academy Award Winner” or “Academy Award Nominee” in front of their name, even if it’s on their tombstone. I’ll be the first to admit it makes my job a whole heck of a lot easier, and when it comes to getting future work, it makes a celebrity’s job easier, too. It was Kathy Bates who was quoted as saying, “Every time an Oscar is handed out, an agent gets their wings.”
However, clearly, acting is one profession, while being a celebrity is job all on its own. That said, even with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding award shows, once celebrities get a taste, it creates a standard of talent that they have to live up to, which separates the hard-working celebs from the ones who just got lucky. ... I’m talking to you Marisa Tomei.
Michael Levine is an L.A. entertainment publicist. Besides having represented those 58 Academy Award winners, he has authored 19 books.
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