It is tempting to dismiss film and TV award ceremonies as
back-slapping industry events at which C-list celebrities can hitch a
free ride along the fame alphabet.
From stars dropping their tops on the Cannes Croisette to Liz Hurley
wowing London in a Versace frock held together with safety pins, award
events have long provided the perfect backdrop for pre-planned publicity
'Everyone wants to be at award ceremonies,' says Mark Borkowski,
director of Borkowski PR, which represents the likes of Mark Lamarr and
Sir Cliff Richard. 'The BAFTA film awards are one of the premier events
in the calendar.'
This year's event was considered one of the most successful to date.
It attracted a bevy of Hollywood heavyweights including Goldie Hawn, Tom
Hanks and Russell Crowe - an indication of the esteem in which the event
is now held.
Part of the success of The Orange British Academy Film Awards - to give
the event its correct name - was due to its staging before the Oscars,
providing an early warning of how the voting for the Oscars may go.
'For the first time, the event was not just an afterthought following
the Oscars,' says Patrick Keegan, Freud Communications director of
Freud Communications was in charge of organising the PR campaign on
behalf of BAFTA and managing the media logistics on the night. In terms
of PR, Keegan says the awards celebrate the British film industry at
home and abroad, are a showcase for individual distributors and a chance
to highlight the work of BAFTA as an organisation. Other main
beneficiaries include the sponsor, the nominees and the
A nomination and certainly an award will raise the profile of its
Whereas someone like Tom Hanks needs little publicity it is the
lesser-known actors and directors that can exploit the kudos that film
awards offer. Billy Elliot's director will undoubtedly be receiving
offers from Hollywood in the near future, if he hasn't already, and Ang
Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gained reams of publicity, with
media commentators correctly predicting a swathe of awards on its
MacLaurin Communications works on the PR campaign for the TV awards.
Account director Sarah Ewing says: 'Nominees are very cagey. They don't
want to publicise their nomination because it sounds too
Faced with a raft of reluctant nominees, Ewing looks elsewhere to whip
up pre-event publicity. The announcement of the host generates good
publicity, as do interviews with recently-appointed BAFTA chief
executive Amanda Berry, whom many credit with breathing new life into
Other pre-event news hooks include leaking the names of BAFTA fellowship
awardees in advance and 'piggy-backing' on editorial coverage in
Ewing and her team ask agents and publicists for the media schedules of
the nominees and then try to persuade journalists to promote the awards
in their features.
As for the hundreds of minor celebrities wishing to do some
piggy-backing of their own, Ewing says: 'The people we really want to
invite don't usually ring up for an invite.'
For those lucky enough to get an invite to an award ceremony, such as
the BAFTAs and the Evening Standard Awards, Borkowski has advice. He
warns celebrities to avoid drinking on the night, to plan their strategy
in advance and to be careful whom they are photographed next to.
'There's nothing new when it comes to awards,' he says. 'The camera
likes a showman, but celebrities should never seem desperate for
Events like the BAFTAs present excellent PR opportunities for film
distributors such as Buena Vista, Warner Brothers and UIP.
Sara Keene is joint managing director of film publicity agency Corbett &
Keene. She recently worked on a PR campaign for UIP, aimed at BAFTA
members. Keene was responsible for promoting films including Billy
Elliot, Gladiator, Cast Away and The Grinch.
During the awards ceremony, Keene worked with the nominees, ensuring
they were safely checked into hotels and knew where to sit at the
ceremony. She also set up publicity opportunities for the stars while
they were in town.
Like many other charities, BAFTA works with sponsors for its events.
This year, Orange sponsored the BAFTA film awards for the fourth time,
offering two special awards, the Orange Prize for Screenwriting and The
Orange Audience Award.
Julian Henry, managing director of Henry's House, which represents
Orange, says the BAFTA sponsorship focuses attention on the business as
'BAFTA is a fantastic property,' says Henry. 'Orange has built a
credible reputation for sponsorship in the arts.'
Borkowski, however, believes they are in danger of being reduced to
little more than 'logo sticking events'. 'It is important to maintain
the prestige of event such as the BAFTAs,' he says. 'Sponsorship has a
way of devaluing them.'
It is difficult, however, to imagine how an event on the scale of BAFTAs
could be carried off without some form of corporate sponsorship. And
while media coverage of this and other events may focus on the lighter
side, most would agree that as a celebration of the British film and TV
industries, the BAFTAs are unrivalled.
BAFTAS HOT IN THE CITY
Four years ago, BAFTA separated its film and TV awards into two
This year, The Orange British Academy Film Awards took place on 25
February at the Odeon in London's Leicester Square.
Freud Communications director of entertainment Patrick Keegan headed a
team responsible for managing the 300 journalists who attended the
A Mexican restaurant above the Odeon was transformed into a press room
for the night. From their position on the balcony, journalists had a
bird's eye view of the stars as they walked up the red carpet.
The Mezzanine theatre, which is part of the Odeon complex, was converted
into a press centre. Coverage of the ceremony, which was broadcast by
Sky, was piped to the press centre for broadcast and press
After the event, an awards dinner and party was held at Grosvenor
Keegan explains that he liased with the council representatives and the
police to ensure all the guests were safely transported from the Odeon
to Grosvenor House and coaches were allowed into Leicester Square for
the first time.
There were no major glitches at either the award ceremony or
after-dinner event, although a few guests were late and some technical
hitches required the team to think on its feet.
After awards night, Keegan was responsible for keeping up the coverage
of the awards. A news hook was needed once the names of the winners had
'In past years, second day stories have come out of the after-show
party,' explains Keegan. 'For example, there have been hunts for BAFTA
awards after winners have misplaced them. One year Dustin Hoffman
thanked his taxi driver during his acceptance speech. A search was
launched by a national newspaper to find the driver.'
This year's second-day coverage featured the praise given to Jamie Bell,
who won an award for the Best Performance of an Actor in a Leading Role
MacLaurin Communications account director Sarah Ewing is responsible the
PR campaign for the BAFTA TV awards, which will take place in May and
will be sponsored by The Radio Times.
She began alerting the media industry of the event in January and will
soon announce the nominees. In the six-week run-up to the awards, Ewing
will try to build up as much pre-publicity as possible with little help
from the publicity-shy nominees.
OSCARS INVITATION ONLY
Getting an invite to the Oscars is a privilege many liken to being asked
by God to dine at the high table. Not even world famous pop stars and
acclaimed Hollywood actors are guaranteed a pew at this the most
glamorous of award ceremonies.
The 73rd Annual Academy Awards will be presented on 25 March by the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Behind the scenes, a select
few run the event like a well oiled machine, policing every last detail
and holding the media firmly in check.
Among these influential players are a handful of PR agencies, including
LA-based entertainment specialist Bumble Ward & Associates, and Chasen &
In terms of PR, the kudos of being photographed at the Oscars is immense
for British celebrities. But from this side of the water, it can seem as
if the Americans have the Oscars sewn up.
Invites are rarer than gold tickets to chocolate factories and no amount
of native clout will open doors for British stars, their agents or their
'You may get an invitation if you're Gwyneth Paltrow, but there's no
hope if you're a B-list celebrity on Emmerdale,' says Mark Borkowski,
director of his eponymous PR agency.
Borkowski says the only hope for UK-based publicists is to forge a close
relationship with either the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
or an influential US PR agency. The only snag is that there are
countless LA-based publicists ahead of them.
This is not to say the Brits aren't well represented at the Oscars this
year. Judi Dench and Julie Walters have both been nominated for Best
Supporting Actress, Albert Finney is up for Best Supporting Actor, while
Ridley Scott has been nominated for the Best Director award.
But for those British celebrities who haven't been nominated, securing a
golden invite is only the first hurdle. Although the Academy Awards
stages a post-awards party, the Governors' Ball is not necessarily the
best place to be seen. In past years, top celebrity bashes have included
the Miramax supper and the Fox-Paramount Titanic party. Where this
year's 'in place' will be is anyone's guess.
So even if they are lucky enough to get an invite to the Oscars, British
stars quickly discover they are a small fish swimming in a big pond.