Are Doddering SAG Voters Too Dumb to Vote for 'King's Speech' Online?
"SAG's Online-Only Voting Could Disenfranchise Thousands," pundit Steve Pond says -- and he thinks The King's Speech could lose votes. SAG's Daryl Anderson says members are online-savvy, not befuddled fuddy-duddy technophobes.
Pond says fretful publicists fear "tens of thousands" of the Screen Actors Guild's 100,000 or so eligible voters may be confused by the new online voting system, publicized conspicuously, including in November's Screen Actor magazine, which every member gets. Most SAGsters told Pond they like voting online, but one oldster he spoke with didn't get it, and tech-twit twitterers have posted clueless comments wondering where their physical ballots are.
In a Social Network/King's Speech race tighter than the tequila-reeking lesbian liplock of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan, this could tip the vote away from the King (if as Pond says his voters skew older and tech-incompetent), benefiting the other noms with allegedly tech-compos-mentis fans (Network, Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right). The SAG vote could swing the Oscar race.
But SAG Awards Committee Vice Chair Daryl Anderson calls bull on this argument. "Do you know how much actors use the Internet every day? Every time we audition, we use sides, pages of scripts. Thirty years ago I'd drive twice to audition, first to pick up sides, then to do the audition. Today they're distributed as pdfs. For commercials you download them from a website. For feature films -- this happened to me this year -- you get an email that says, Attached is a pdf with the material, videotape yourself, turn it into a quicktime file and send it to this email address for the casting director. Or if you have a Mac .me account, you've got an idisk, post it there and tell us your user name and we'll download it by ftp. And that's every day."
But aren't older members out of touch?
"We pay our dues online and our health premiums online. People go online to see what their pensions are going to be and they don't usually do that until they're getting close. And we've eased in this change slowly over six years." Unlike the faulty hanging-chad voting machines that gave us President Bush, SAG's online system was tested. "The committee members went into the website before it was live to find out will it do things like let you vote for too many people in a category, and it won't. It tells you if you're making a mistake."
Is it even true that King's Speech voters are older? "Who knows?" says Anderson. "People vote for what they like. They nominated Hailee Steinfeld. They nominated Al Pacino. I don't see any sign of an age bias in the group."
One blog commenter claims SAG has a bias for big ensembles over small ones. "I don't think you can generalize. The Station Agent springs to mind. I think Million Dollar Baby was only three people."
Besides, how fogeyish is The King's Speech when it's the first movie in the race to beef up the satellite-fed Q&A? On Thursday, TWC live-streamed a Q&A with Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Claire Bloom from Clapham Picturehouse in London to 62 UK theaters and one theater each for SAG members in New York and London. (You can watch it and a similar Jan. 13 Q&A at LA's Wadsworth Theater.)
"It was live on Ustream, live on Facebook, live on Twitter, and thousands of people were blogging and sending us questions," says Weinstein Company marketing VP Bladimiar Norman, who perhaps needs a catchy moniker, like Bad Blad. He thinks the Q&A reached "in the 50-70,000 range," not counting the excerpts cut into the making-of specials and making-of TV spots for the film. "The younger audience loved it, we just needed to get creative and make the film relevant in their world. It became a total game changer. The whole SAG thing is too. It created an environment where The King's Speech was a legitimate part of the digital age we live in."
Since an "unknowable" number of viewers retweeted or promulgated the Q&As via handy hashtags and Facebook, is it not ironic that the movie not about Facebook was publicized by Facebook? Is, in fact, The King's Speech ahead of The Social Network in social networking?
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Scott, whose THR coverage appears both in print and online, is one of the film industry's most experienced and trusted awards analysts, and possesses one of the strongest track records at forecasting the Oscars. His best showings came in 2006 and 2013, when he called 21 of 24 winners; he was also the only pundit to project long-shot best picture nominations for The Reader (2008), The Blind Side (2009) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011). An alumnus of Brandeis University, he previously ran "The Feinberg Files" blog for the Los Angeles Times. He is now a voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, and is writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 350 high-profile Hollywood figures.
Gregg contributes awards news, features online, and "The Race" column in print.
Tim contributes awards news and features, both in print and online.