Three Anonymous Oscars Insiders On What Awards-Campaign Season Is Really Like

They’ve created a system where it’s become harder for smaller companies to do things on a budget—you have to match what they have, which nobody can ever do. But at the same time, they’re not winning. They’re losing more than they’re winning anything. So they’ve redefined the world in which we campaign, but they’ve also cornered themselves in such a way that voters really resent the way that they approach the Oscars and have punished them for that. And for that, I salute the voters. [Laughs] Somebody has to!

The Producer and Short-Film Oscar Winner

For the short-film category, you have to qualify in order for the Academy to even look at you. Because if you think about it, otherwise, everyone and their dog will submit to the Academy. And in order to qualify, you have to either win, or place a certain title in one of the festivals that are accredited by their standards. The reason why we qualified is because we won [at] the Student Academy Awards—which I also did not know existed.

Winning the Student Academy Awards—I think it’s an inspirational thing for student filmmakers. The older Academy members are the ones who really care about it. There’s interest in whoever wins the Student Academy Awards. When we got shortlisted for the Oscar, we thought that was it already. That was the best day of our entire lives.

I don’t know if this is the rumor or not, but enough people have said this: They sort of only watch the first three to four minutes of the film. And then they’re like, “By show of hands, who wants to keep going?”And I heard this from people that had an inside track from years before, because some of their best shots were at the very end of the film. So, this actually influenced how we edited. We made script revisions when we heard this, to make sure that it was immediately captivating and not a slow build to some grand shot. We needed the four minutes to set the pace.

We were pretty naive in the understanding that when you’re nominated, that’s when a whole other thing begins. Sounds stupid now, because duh. But we did not understand that you have to campaign, and you have to campaign hard. I think we just went for the “New York kids” story—we were all students.

Everybody campaigns. The people on Twitter who talk crap about Bradley Cooper for campaigning too much [this awards season]? They’re all full of shit. Whatever you can do to campaign, obviously you should, because literally everyone else will.

Every single person sitting in a seat at the Oscars has to be approved for a ticket. I was sitting next to the daughter of a colorist on a Pixar film or whatever. And this is all controlled by one woman in Hollywood, who every year becomes the most important woman in town. She only gave us two tickets. We were like, “What do we do? There’s so many of us.” So we were like, let’s send her cookies. We sent her a dozen cookies from Levain with the most impassioned letter that was like, “We are never going to experience this again. We don’t care where we sit. Please.” We got to be a crew of eight. I guess we bribed her with Levain cookies. [Laughs]

After the Oscars, we went to the afterparties. The one thing about the Vanity Fair party is, you can only get in if you were directly invited or if you win—not even if you’re nominated. So we pull up to the Vanity Fair party and they’re like, “Do you have a ticket?” So we show the actual Oscar. And they were like, “Oh, hey, the kids from New York!”

The most surreal moment was when Tom Hanks looked at us and shouted, “Hey, it’s the kids from New York.” And then it was like a movie—there was a clearing [of the crowd], and we were in the middle [of the room]. And then the next thing we know, all of these people were coming up to us and congratulating us, like Quentin Tarantino. We were like, “What the fuck?” It was so crazy.

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