Oscar campaigns: How they work, why they matter and their questionable tactics

For those in the movie business, an Oscar is the most prestigious award an artist can get. But taking home the golden trophy may not always be just about merit — often, there’s artistry in the race itself.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is an Oscar campaign?

To win a coveted statue, studios often rely heavily on campaigning, with the purpose being to get your movie seen by as many people as possible through ads, lobbying, parties, screeners and sometimes even, some say, dredging up the competition’s past.

These campaigns create a narrative, which is designed to get the right eyes on the film in question. For example, as the actors and director of “La La Land” have made rounds on talk shows and news programs, they’ve shared personal stories of struggling in Hollywood, highlighting themes of the movie itself.

Meanwhile, “La La Land”‘s fellow best picture nominee “Lion” featured an immigration storyline in its Oscar ads, framing the movie as particularly relevant in light of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel policies.

Long Way Home Productions/IMDb
Dev Patel, left, and Priyanka Bose in a scene from “Lion.”

ABC News contributor Chris Connelly says it’s all extremely strategic: “There are often attempts to be socially relevant to whatever is going on in the world at the time. Movies are positioning themselves with regard to why you should watch them now,” he said.

The buzz created by ads and interviews can be the difference between someone seeing your film in a theater, at home or not at all, according to academy voter and publicist Stu Zakim.

“When that first screening of ‘La La Land’ came, there was so much buzz, I was there early to get a good seat,” Zakim told ABC News. “If it’s a winner coming out of Sundance [Film Festival], of course I’m going to pay attention to that. But I’m not going to kill myself to see something [in theaters], if I know I’m going to get a screener.”

Movies need campaign buzz for members to actually…

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