Journos And Marketers Tee Off On Hollywood Re: Oscars

The same day Golden Globe nominations were announced, a panel of journos and Oscar-experienced marketers held a small crowd in rapt attention last night for the L.A. Press Club, telling horror stories out of school about the sleazy tricks committed over the last decade in the name of getting the prized statue.

Not the Globes, but definitely their kissing cousin, the Oscars.

The topic was Oscar marketing and how reporters covered it, studios manipulated it and the great unwashed out there lived through it, year after year.

Show business historian and Editor-at-Large of The Hollywood Reporter Alex Ben Block (see, at left) moderated the panel, which included at Ben Block’s request, Patrick Goldstein, film writer for the Los Angeles Times and author of the column and blog, “The Big Picture;” John Horn, entertainment reporter for the Los Angeles Times; Mark Pogachefsky, Co-founder and co-president of mPRm Public Relations; and Dennis Rice, a veteran marketing guru and publicity expert who has held high-level posts at Miramax, October, Walt Disney and United Artists Pictures.

Mordant bunch of battle-scarred vets…at least when it comes to the Oscars.

More below.

Rice, who alongside Pogachefsky is an actual Oscar voter, explained how the indie world was dominated by former Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein and his constant manipulation of Oscar campaigns to take the place of a marketing budget for his low-budget films.

“He gets double bang for his buck, but Harvey is still a great filmmaker,” said Rice, who worked as head of marketing for Harvey from 1998 to 2002. He continued that even Harvey sometimes needs to be told that he’s out of line with these campaigns.

Horn told a tale of the Harvey-led Oscar campaign for Martin Scorsese on “Gangs of New York.” Per Horn, who broke the story in the L.A. Times, Harvey convinced Oscar-winning director Robert Wise to endorse Scorsese in an open letter before the Oscar votes were in. The problem was that Wise was infirm and practically incapable of writing such a letter.

Harvey never saw any recrimination other than the usual industry laments at his oversized, boisterous personality trying to force its way. And for the record, it didn’t do much good. Scorsese wouldn’t taste Oscar status until last year with “The Departed.”

The upshot was that the Academy changed the rules to, Pogachefsky (pictured at right) chimed in, disallow a current Academy member from commenting in print on a film in consideration.

Goldstein finished the talk telling the crowd to take what bloggers have to say — even though he himself has a blog through the L.A. Times — with a grain of salt as they represent unedited, unfiltered copy which is just as often wrong as right.

All the panel agreed, but perhaps Rice was clearest about the writing on the wall. They are the future, he said, and the film world will just have learn to deal with them.