The keys to the campaign were unification and education, says Dawn Miller, president of LCO. Creating visibility and awareness throughout the film industry, as well as among the movie-going public, was essential.
"There's strength in numbers," Miller explained. To that end, LCO rallied three other major Hollywood stunt groups - the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures, Brand X, and the International Stunt Association - in support of the Oscar quest. The firm then focused on taking the groups' integrated message mainstream.
"We played up to the public's emotions, emphasizing how unfair it was that these people went through risk and danger on a daily basis and were still being turned away," Miller says.
Serving as a mediator among the four organizations, LCO prepared educational resources, each designed to target either movie consumers, studio heads and other industry networks, trade organizations, or the academy. Media materials explained the stunt coordinator's role, highlighted the job's technical and artistic skill sets, and documented the academy's stringent Oscar-category requirements.
At the same time, LCO worked to build buzz around an online "add a category" petition, the launch of which coincided with the 2005 Academy Awards.
After the Oscars, LCO organized a peaceful stunt coordinators' demonstration outside the academy's LA headquarters.
"It was a bit dramatic," Miller says, recalling protesters' "We risk our lives for our art" placards. "But it conveyed the campaign messages, and added a visual element."
"Public awareness and education has grown tremendously," Miller says. "For a limited budget, [we saw] phenomenal results."
In the weeks surrounding the Oscars, the effort generated more than 200 media hits, from its initial New York Times exclusive to coverage by Nightline, Today, Access Hollywood, and Reuters.
Most significantly, the academy has finally considered adding a Best Stunt Coordinator category; though the request was rejected in 2005, the campaign wrapped with an unexpected twist when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) issued a statement ardently encouraging the academy to reassess its decision. "That was a sign that we'd really made an impact," Miller says.
Though the academy's board of governors remains reluctant to add Oscar categories - only two have been approved in the past 26 years - Hollywood's stunt coordinators continue to appeal.
The academy is slated to reconsider the request at its next meeting, later this summer.
PR team: Stunts Unlimited (Toluca Lake, CA) and Levine Communications Office (LA)
Campaign: Quest for the Oscar
Duration: January to August 2005
Budget: About $20,000
Despite the fact that the Oscars are still without a Best Stunt Coordinator category, LCO's campaign succeeded on two levels: uniting the stunts trade organizations and leveraging its entertainment-industry media connections to raise awareness and sympathy among mainstream movie-goers.
LCO also succeeded in proactively taking advantage of organically generated support from studio executives and A-list stars, including Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Robert De Niro, and Arnold Schwarzenegger to further its client's cause. As for the Oscar category itself? At least it's on the table.