Well, you know it’s awards season when you start receiving “For Your Consideration” ads in the mail. The winner of First Advertising Mailer of the Season goes to: How To Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks). Yes, it’s animated. But that doesn’t stop Dreamworks from asking us costume designers for our consideration. The winner of First DVD of the Season goes to: Alice in Wonderland (Disney). Big corporations spend millions of dollars each year asking us to consider projects for awards. Are they worthy? What about the smaller films that can’t afford awards advertising? Are they somehow less worthy? Awards season always makes me uncomfortable and slightly agitated for this reason.
Take a look at last year’s nominees for the Costume Designers Guild Awards. The way these projects get nominated is thus – first, we (members) submit our projects for the general ballot. In addition, publicists and sometimes movie studios submit their films. Then we are bombarded with media, then we vote to nominate projects for the awards. In years past, only work performed under the IATSE contract could be nominated, but a few years ago someone passed the smelling salts around at the Guild, and now all films are allowed to be considered. However, if no one submits the film for the general ballot, it won’t appear on the general ballot, and it won’t be nominated. Case in point: Séraphine.
I absolutely loved this film, and reviewed it here in June of 2009. The costumes are magnificent, and they won the César award (France’s “Oscar”). When I opened my CDG Awards ballot last year, Séraphine was nowhere to be found. I could have kicked myself. I didn’t realize that it was incumbent upon those of us who saw the film to nominate it. It had a small release here in the US, and was backed by a handful of smallish French/Belgian production companies. Those companies didn’t have the money to launch a full-scale publicity avalanche for our consideration, and they didn’t have a publicist working to make sure the film was put onto our general CDG Awards ballot.
So what’s a small film to do? And what of a TV movie or a contemporary film whose costume brilliance would otherwise be overlooked by studio executives? What about those films? Surely they are worthy of our consideration – but without big studio support, who is going to lead the publicity campaign?
The idea of self-promotion in our industry is complicated. It is, on one hand, essential, and on the other hand (to some), distasteful. We all must send out resumes and make ourselves look marketable; this is how we get work, and it is necessary. But somehow, the establishment views publicizing one’s own work around awards season as gauche and uncouth. This is hypocrisy, if you ask me.
Awards, in any form, bolster one’s resume. These days, awards are won through expensive media campaigning. DVDs are sent out, free screenings are organized, exquisite mailers with fabric swatches and sketches are delivered to our doors. You don’t have to seek out great work; you just need to choose from what’s right in front of you, right? WRONG. That’s lazy.
In a perfect world, every project would have an equal shot at an award. We all know that’s not the case. If you designed a very low budget movie or TV show, and you are very proud of the work you did, I don’t see anything wrong with publicizing it yourself. The establishment frowns intensely on this practice, but I think under the circumstances, they need to relax. Why frown on an individual publicizing their work, but open the doors wide to studios and PR people doing the same thing? It’s hypocritical at best. That outdated policy helps to ensure that the moneyed studio films/shows get the awards and the independents languish. I’m not saying that the studio films/shows don’t deserve awards; I simply think it is only fair that the little guys get a shot, too.
I started Frocktalk in part to give smaller films more exposure, but I can’t cover every film. If you have designed a film you are proud of and want some free publicity, please set up a website (Google sites are free – https://sites.google.com/) and email me the link. I will post it here and you can benefit from exposure to our Frocktalk readership. It’s only fair, and I will never judge you for wanting to spread the word about your good work. My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that I am ONLY accepting WEBSITES. No pictures, essays, or press packets. WEBSITES ONLY.
So with all of that in mind, I am reminded that I forgot to post a link to a lovely interview I did with Chris from Clothesonfilm.com about Paranormal Activity 2. I’m afraid I couldn’t get into too many details about it, but it will give you a bit of insight.
OK, costume community; show me what you’ve got. Let’s make this awards season a real horse race. Let’s level the playing field. Bring. It. On.
Update: It appears this was a prescient post! Check out this story from tonight’s LA TIMES! Good luck, everyone!