‘Crying Ladies’ director’s advice on ‘OTJ8’s’ Oscars campaign
An effective campaign plan is important,” said film and TV director Mark Meily when asked what advice he could give to the team behind “On the Job: The Missing 8” (OTJ8), this year’s official Philippine entry to the best international feature film category of the 95th Academy Awards.
Meily’s dramatic film “Crying Ladies,” starring Sharon Cuneta, campaigned to get an Oscar nomination in the same category in 2004.
No Filipino film has ever received a nomination since the country started submitting entries in 1953.
Meily said that based on his experience, “It’s not enough that a film is beautifully made. There has to be a campaign that will create enough buzz for voting members of the Academy, which number to more than 3,000, to become curious enough to want to watch the film. You won’t be able to make all of them attend screenings, but at least, they will learn of its importance by word of mouth,” he pointed out.
Similar to the campaign strategy of “Crying Ladies,” which was produced by Unitel Pictures, Meily said APT Entertainment, producer of Dante Nico Garcia’s “Ploning,” also “invested” on the film by organizing special screenings in the United States in 2008.
“Ploning,” starring Judy Ann Santos, also placed advertisements in weekly entertainment publications like Hollywood Reporter and Variety, Meily reported. “The problem here is that from over a hundred films submitted from all over the world, only five will be picked as nominees,” he said.
Meily said it is also an advantage if the film has a US-based distributor. In the case of “Crying Ladies,” it signed up with AsianCrush and Digital Media Rights. Meily cited an example on how this can be advantageous: “Let’s say Miramax is your distributor. They will spend on the film in order to promote it. If it eventually gets nominated, they can put this detail in the film’s publicity materials in the hope that they can earn more.”
He continued: “You have to work hard and think smart when it comes to your campaign plan. These days, we’re talking about spending millions just for the Academy members in that particular category to be aware of the film. You also have to start campaigning as early as September.”
Philippine representatives to the Oscars are usually announced in October, after a deliberation conducted by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP). The Academy Awards usually takes place between February and March.
Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” began promoting the film as early as May, after it won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival in France, Meily observed. “The strategy proved effective for the film because it’s rare for a movie to win the Palme d’Or, and both the Oscar best international feature film and best picture awards,” he said.
Meily said partnering with sponsors would also help. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has pledged P1 million as financial aid for the campaign of “OTJ8.”
“The FDCP’s mandate is to assist Filipino films as they participate in international film festivals, while the FAP’s task is just to help industry-related guilds. Through the years, because of politics, the FAP got assigned to pick our Oscar representatives, especially since there was still no FDCP at the time. It’s just right that the FDCP takes over the job now,” Meily pointed out.
FAP’s appointed director general Vivian Velez resigned in May. FAP treasurer Manny Morfe is the acting officer in charge, while officials are still deliberating on who will replace Velez.
Asked to share his thoughts about the newly installed FDCP chief, Tirso Cruz III, Meily said: “A lot of us are optimistic because Tirso knows industry people who can help him do his job well. Tirso is able to effectively promote our films abroad because he is also from the industry. Imagine the challenges you have to hurdle if you’re from outside—I’m not saying you can’t do the job, but you will certainly be facing more challenges.” INQ
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