One of the perks of being in the WGA is that you get sent scripts and screener DVDs for many of the year’s best movies. Just this week, I got Juno and The Savages. My Christmas holiday to-watch list keeps getting longer.
WGA members are sent these scripts and screeners in the hopes that they’ll be nominated for the awards, obviously.1 But it’s not always clear why some movies are “For Your Consideration,” while others aren’t.
The answer has less to do with critics than calendars; the decision is made months before the movie is released. It’s made by studio marketing departments, who are looking at dates, cast and comparable films to figure out whether it’s worth the money and time it takes to mount a serious FYC campaign.
Sony decided Big Fish was an awards contender, so they bought the ads and publicity to support it. We screened for the National Board of Review and all of the other tastemakers. In the end, we got a handful of nominations. I got Best Adapted Screenplay nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics and the BAFTAs.
But a few years earlier, the studio didn’t try to get anything for Go. We’d debuted at Sundance, and had gotten terrific reviews, but since we hit theaters in February of that year, there were other movies for the studio to promote by the time awards season came. Doug Liman, Sarah Polley and I would have been longshots — but our names could certainly have been placed in the mix. But for Sony, a couple of award nominations would have meant very little for an R-rated teen comedy already at Blockbuster.
With the summer release of The Nines, I knew there was little chance we’d be remembered come awards time — and zero money for ads, mailers and screenings to refresh people’s memories.2 I would have loved some actorly appreciation for Ryan and Melissa, who are consistently singled out in reviews for being terrific in multiple roles, even by critics who didn’t like the movie.
But I’ve tried not to be frustrated when looking at the 14th full page For Your Consideration ad in Variety for a “worthy” movie I know is worthless. The awards campaign was always part of these Very Important Movies’ marketing. It wasn’t for ours. Our target audience was the intersection of sci-fi geeks and Sundance aficionados, who we’ll reach better when the movie comes out on DVD on January 29th.
We didn’t send out the script of The Nines, although it’s been available for download for months. With a bit of stomping and fuss, I probably could have gotten the distributor to mail it to at least WGA members. And I kind of regret not pushing for it, because I have a hunch that the small subset of members who actually read the scripts they’re sent3 are the ones inclined to log in and do the new online nominations for the WGA Awards.
So if you’re a WGA member who falls into that category, let me invite you to read it and nominate it if it seems like one of the five best contenders for Original Screenplay this year. (We’re number #109 on the ballot. The deadline is January 8th at noon.)
Did that feel uncomfortable? Because it was. It’s so much nicer to sit behind a glossy trade ad than ask a reader for his or her vote. But I just did.
I’ll be heading out for a Christmas holiday, but I’ll be checking in occasionally. If I don’t see you, have a good one.
- Specifically the WGA Awards, which I have a hunch will not be picketed, unlike some others. ↩
- It didn’t matter that we’d only come out in New York, LA and Austin. Most of the awards-givers are conveniently housed there. ↩
- My great frustration is that awards for Best Screenplay are given without any direct exposure to the screenplay. You’re watching the finished movie and guessing which ones were well-written. The more honest award would be given to the director for Not Fucking Up What Was Probably a Good Script. ↩