Film Making and the Academy Awards – Top 4 Reasons Why We Even Bother

Filmmaking > Buisness > Academy Awards, etc.

Are you one of the millions who ask themselves every time a television ad pops on the screen for another “Awards” show, “Does anyone even watch these things anymore??”

Admittedly, even those of us in the Entertainment world can’t keep up with the plethora of self-aggrandizing ceremonies that dribble out of L.A. and New York.

Let’s see, you’ve got the Academy Awards, a.k.a. the Oscars, Tony awards, SAG awards, Golden Globe awards, Emmy awards (Daytime and Primetime), Grammies, Country Music awards, Independent Spirit awards, the Image Awards, MTV movie awards, People’s Choice awards, Teen Choice Awards, Kids Choice Awards, BAFTA Awards, European Film Awards, Internet Movie awards, Genie Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Music awards, the Razzies (my favorite) and well over 3 times as many that aren’t even televised. reported that the Academy Awards of 2008 “hit an all-time ratings low” and the Emmy’s had its lowest viewer ship in 18 years. Most in the Entertainment Award circles blamed the writer’s strike. Sorry, the public isn’t buying it. The only part of the strike the public cared about was the fact that the final season of Scrubs was tragically cut short.

Many people stopped watching Award shows when obvious losers won over obvious winners, or a winner was chosen more out of political correctness than outstanding performance, or perhaps some of us were just tired of being preached to from the Hollywood pulpit by the usual cast of characters holding onto their golden “calves”. (Ooooo, that stings. Oh, well.)
So if the ratings are plummeting, and the general public doesn’t care anymore…

…then why the H. E. double hockey sticks do we still have award shows??

Why do the major and minor studios spend boo-coo bucks on promoting certain films to the various Academies just to win a nomination the public, in general, doesn’t care about?

Don’t get me wrong, I may come off a little harsh, but growing up in the business my dream was to win an Oscar, a Tony and a Grammy all in the same year! It wasn’t until I grew up and became more involved in the reality and business of Hollywood and filmmaking that my feelings changed. Winning one of these awards is important to me, but for a completely different reason. And this reason, in my opinion, is the purpose for which award shows were created in the first place.
Some will say the reasons we still air these award shows are:
# 4. Tradition. Sorry, this reason just doesn’t hold up for me. For a reason to continue to do something that appears to be failing, “tradition” is weak.
When traditions begin to fade out because of cultural shifts, corruption of its intended purpose or the mere fact the public becomes more educated and realizes “Hey, this is stupid” or “Hey, this is dangerous,” the tradition becomes more of a nuisance or just flat out illegal.

(Human sacrifice was a tradition among ancient Americans. We see how well that worked out.)

# 3. Satisfying the Ego. This one, I happen to agree with, but not as the primary reason.

Look, if you’re not an artist, you may not understand this one. Artists, especially entertainers, more especially actors, are the most neurotic group of people you will ever meet. We need constant reassurance that we’re doing a great job and that we’re important or we become nervous, slightly unstable and unsure of ourselves.

The only way we know we’re doing a good job, is if we’re told we’re doing a good job and if no one tells us we’re doing a good job then we begin to wonder if we’re doing a good job and spiral into an abyss of self-doubt.

I know, it’s a mental disease. Why do you think it requires so many takes to shoot one scene? Technical issues aside, it’s not because Ben Stiller is making everyone laugh, it’s because both the director and actors (generally speaking of course) don’t trust their artistic instincts and keep trying to get the “perfect shot.”

All the while it’s the producer banging his/her head against the wall watching money going down the drain with each take.

(More on this in a future article.)

# 2. Recognizing accomplishments in one’s craft. Okay, that’s fair, but how many ceremonies do you need for that? You don’t see a slew of big guys in tuxes showing up on a red carpet for the Steel Workers Union awards, do you?

Recognizing achievement is good for any Industry, but it doesn’t answer the question as to why the Entertainment Industry seems to go overboard.

So… the #1 reason why we have grandiose award ceremonies, regardless whether or not anyone cares, is…


Think about it, doesn’t it add reassurance to your decision to see a movie if you hear the deep voiced announcer say, “Starring Academy Award Winner So-and-so, Academy Award winner such-and-such, by Oscar winning director What’s-his-butt, with music by Grammy award winning composer What’s-her-face.” Don’t you feel more confident that it will be a better movie?

Even if the plot seems a little silly, you’ll still think, “Hmmmm, I bet that’ll be pretty good.”

If the movie employs Nominated performers, you’ll see that plastered all over the advertising in Gold letters!


Because it makes you feel “safe” about seeing that movie. It’s the film industry’s version of a product guarantee.

If you were presented with two dramas you have never heard of before, A and B, each with the same budget, same script, same title, Movie A features Award winning and nominated actors, directors and composers and Movie B is cast with a fair mix of B-listers and nobody’s, which do you open your wallet or purse for? Hmmmm?


Studios and retailers want your money and they know that when it comes to spending money on a movie, you, the customer, are going to put your green down on “Award winning” artists to deliver a better film almost every time, even though logically you understand that Movie B could be just as good, or maybe better.

Even the pre-ceremony circus we know as the “Red Carpet” is marketing because from the studios to the producers to even the actors (the smart ones) understand that to stay relevant, you have to keep your face in front of the public as much as possible, even if it means putting on a ridiculous evening gown while Ryan Seacrest tells you you look stunning.

Still don’t get it? Let me put it this way

Why does McDonald’s, the #1 fast food chain in the world, still spend millions on TV commercials and billboards?

Because they get it!

They understand that to stay on top, they have to stay in front of the public’s mind, and to do that, they have keep sending out the message “We are here! We are here! We are heeeere!” That is the role award ceremonies play for the Entertainment Industry.

Just like a movie’s theatrical release is just an advertisement for the DVD. (Topic for a future article.)

In conclusion, although I’d never turn down a nomination or an award from anyone, it’s no longer my primary focus as a producer/actor/director/composer. It’s no longer “What can I do to give an Oscar-winning performance,” it’s now “What can I do to make the kind of movies I want to go see?”

(That’s actually the PIXAR philosophy and I’d say it’s worked out fairly well for them.)

It’s called Show-“Business.” The Award shows serve many purposes to many people, but the bottom line is business…and it’s all about –

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