10:01pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Oscar Strategist Moves: New N.Y. Firm, L.A. Consultant Hire (Exclusive)
With the unofficial start of the Oscar season — the kickoff of the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend — only a month away, distributors and independent awards consultants are neck-deep in speed-dating. Adding to the mix, one formidable new awards consultancy, Film Circuits, has just been established in New York, while in Los Angeles another, Lisa Taback's LTLA Communications, has made a major hire, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
In Gotham, the veteran studio PR execs Julie Tustin and Meryl Katz are going into business together, forming Film Circuits, a company that will specialize in awards campaigning, tastemaker events, programming and publicity special operations.
The two women worked together on innumerable Oscar campaigns in the New York offices of Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax during the 1990s (where the modern Academy push was patented) and at Paramount in the 2000s. (In between, Tustin also worked under Megan Colligan at Fox Searchlight.)
Currently hiring staff, they plan to work primarily out of the Big Apple, where there is a heightened demand for elite PR consultants because studio offices have been shrinking or closing altogether. But they also have plans to become a presence in Silicon Valley and at film festivals.
Tustin tells THR, "Meryl and I have collaborated together on incredible awards campaigns and publicity special ops over the past two decades, both at Paramount and Miramax, and believe the combination of our experience will provide a seasoned, unique approach for films and shows looking to make an impact on the awards and festival circuit."
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Taback, the former awards guru at Miramax and the Weinstein Co. who skillfully guided Jennifer Aniston to the brink of the Oscars earlier this year for the tiny indie Cake, has brought on as her VP of publicity Christy Grosz, a highly-respected entertainment journalist with more than 20 years of experience, much of it spent covering awards matters.
Grosz worked at THR for 10 years before transitioning to an art magazine, working as a freelancer (primarily for THR and the Los Angeles Times) and then taking on senior roles at Variety (as awards editor) and Deadline (as editor of that site's magazine Awardsline). She tells THR that that's all in the past, however. "I've definitely moved out of journalism — it didn't feel like the right place for me anymore," she says. "I'm thrilled to be taking on this new challenge, particularly because I've spent so much of my career covering awards seasons from the other side as a writer and editor."
Taback tells THR that she is delighted to have Grosz on her team and emphasizes that the new hire — whose writing skills and relationships with members of the press are certainly assets — will not only provide awards season counsel, but will be retained year-round to strategize about film, TV and technology. Taback emphasizes, "When I sat down with Christy, who I had known for years, it was crystal clear that she was the right fit. Her deep knowledge of entertainment and love of the movies sets her apart from others for whom it's really just a job."