"For Your Consideration": A Critical Analysis of LGBT-Themed Film Award Campaign Advertisements: 1990-2005

By Cabosky, Joseph | Journalism History, July 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

"For Your Consideration": A Critical Analysis of LGBT-Themed Film Award Campaign Advertisements: 1990-2005


Cabosky, Joseph, Journalism History


Each year, film companies spend millions on strategic communication campaigns that attempt to sway industry guilds and critics to vote for their films in a number of filmmaking categories. This process leads to the ultimate goal of influencing members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a select group of Hollywood elites who annually choose which filmmakers to honor with an Academy Award at the world famous Oscars. These strategic marketing events are called "For Your Consideration" (FYC) campaigns.1 Similar to political campaigns, these efforts include targeted advertising in trade media outlets and strategically coordinated public relations events with the objective of influencing voters as they decide for whom to vote.2 Success often means millions more in global box office, not to mention the benefits to a filmmakers career.3 Despite these important economic and cultural impacts, little scholarly work has advanced knowledge in this area. With an immense history that has stretched for decades, this study specifically focused on the type of content and imagery present within campaign advertisements for LGBT-centric films released from 1990 to the mid-2000s, an era of great change in the production of films with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender elements within the industry.

FYC season officially stretches from November until the actual evening of the Oscars, an event that occurs between late February and March in most years.4 Yet, campaigning starts much earlier than this as studios coordinate internal staffers and hire external consultants as early as the summer before.5 During this time, consultants are often already assigned specific films that are predetermined to be awards players.6 While many films are not released to commercial audiences until later in the year, awards publicity begins by building preliminary buzz at events such as film festivals that influential film critics, awards bloggers, and columnists attend.7 While the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival get attention for independent and international films, respectively, festivals taking place in Telluride, Colorado; Venice; New York; and Toronto in the late summer and fall often launch a few films each into awards discussion.8 Well-received films build major momentum while less well-received pictures can disappear from awards discussion.9

Starting in the fall, Los Angeles, New York, and, to a lesser degree, San Francisco and London, become bombarded with private screenings and other publicity events for industry groups while advertising campaigns hit trade media.10 While voting for the Oscars does not begin until the end of the year, other influential industry and critics groups attempt to set the discussion by announcing their recognitions in early December.11 These groups include union members in many craft areas, be it above-the-line areas (i.e., skill positions such as directors, producers, or actors), represented by groups such as the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild, or below-the-line crafts (i.e., skill positions such as makeup artists, film composers, or production designers), represented by groups such as the Art Directors Guild. FYC campaigns are in full swing in November as many of these initial ballots are released during this time, giving voters a few weeks to attend screenings or watch personal screening copies at home.12 Additionally, influential critics' organizations, especially in Los Angeles and New York, start a wave of critical groups announcing their selections, commonly attempting to highlight a small film or less-seen performance into the discussion.13

This first wave of the campaign highlights the top competitors while Oscar voters are still starting their nomination process.14 Many of these early groups have two rounds of voting, having an initial ballot that selects the nominees and a second that chooses the ultimate victor.15 While many films compete in these earlier stages, the campaigning becomes much more focused to only those nominated films in this second phase. …

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