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It’s often said that publicists are the unsung heroes of Hollywood, executives who work tirelessly behind the scenes with minimal recognition when things go well and maximum blame when things don’t. However, once a year, thanks to the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600), publicists from all corners of Hollywood get a chance to bask in the spotlight of the Beverly Hilton’s international ballroom for the ICG Publicists Awards.
Held on Friday, the 60th ceremony saw campaigns for Top Gun: Maverick and Abbott Elementary take top honors in film and TV categories, respectively. Both projects finished the day as double winners (kind of) as Top Gun producer Jerry Bruckheimer accepted the motion picture showman of the year award on behalf of his team while Brunson was honored with the television showman of the year prize. In their speeches, both Bruckheimer and Brunson paid special attention to the work of diligent reps.
Bruckheimer accepted for the Top Gun: Maverick team of Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison, and he did so following a tribute from one of the actors in the film, Danny Ramirez. Bruckheimer joked that he wasn’t the first ask to be in the room.
“It was called to my attention that you contacted my three other producing partners before you got stuck with me. All this to say that I’m a poor substitute for Tom Cruise, but isn’t just about everyone?” quipped Bruckheimer. “I’m sure we all agree that Tom is the consummate showman in every sentence of that word. The actor who is in perfect tune with the audience and always gives them a thrilling ride.”
He said that Cruise and McQuarrie would have loved to be there, but “they’re off making the next Mission: Impossible. “Bruckheimer then turned his attention to the publicists in the room by dedicating the rest of his speech to the tireless work they do on campaigns.
“On the outside, your life seems so glamorous. You hang out with movie stars, titans of industry and powerful political figures, but there’s a catch,” he explained. “You’re the ones who put your lives on hold during the production of a film. You’re the ones who are up early in the morning, and you’re there late at night. You’re the ones who are there on the set, taking care of business and somehow doing it on your phones while jets are roaring over your heads. And you’re the ones who make sure everything we do as producers is shown to movie fans in the best possible light.”
Bruckheimer continued: “You share good times and not-so-good times, maybe even really horrible times, the agony and the ecstasy, so to speak. But through it all, you have our back. It’s been said that if you don’t tell your story, somebody else will. Tom, Chris, David and I thank you for helping us tell our story. And to all of you who do what you do [for] the films and the Hollywood community, we can’t thank you enough.”
Brunson accepted the award from her Abbott Elementary star Lisa Ann Walter who delivered an amusing and emotional tribute that brought them both to tears. She dubbed Brunson “our generation’s Mary Tyler Moore.” Other presenters included Utkarsh Ambudkar (Ghost), Jaylen Barron (Blindspotting), Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Amber Midthinder (Prey), Ethan Peck (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds), Ming Na Wen and Ben Mankiewicz.
Brunson, who has cleaned up on the awards season circuit for the sitcom that she created, executive produces and stars in, joked that she’d never heard of the ICG Publicists Awards or the honor being given to her, “but I’m happy that it does exist because I think that you all do a job that is incredible, crucial and under-appreciated.”
After listing the requisite thank yous to the network, studio and Abbott Elementary cast and crew, Brunson said she was excited about the last part of her speech, dedicated to all the publicists who worked on launching and promoting her show.
“What was really important to me with Abbott Elementary was making sure that the messaging was consistent,” said Brunson. “It was a show that I felt was special, but that meant the messaging about the show had to be special as well. I was on another show that will remain nameless, but I watched that showrunner have trouble communicating her vision to that network. I saw how that can get in the way of a show becoming a success if the messaging is inconsistent.”
The TV creator said she has grown to be very particular in ways that she knows how to annoy the publicists on the show. “I never want to put my cast in the line of fire. I wanna protect everybody,” she explained. “We have children to protect, we have teachers to protect, and I’m always trying to make sure that we’re having fun, protecting each other and getting the word out about the show all at the same time — and that’s annoying. I know I annoy them. I know sometimes they’re like, ‘God, I wish she would just make a show and shut up. I can’t because I think that that’s integral to the success of a show, especially for new, new creatives.”
She praised Abbott reps Celia Sacks and Sarah Teicher who were also singled out by the ICG Publicists Guild with the award for their overall campaign. “Those two were so integral,” Brunson continued. “When I said, ‘Hey man, I just wanna make sure that we show up on this talk show in the right way. I wanna make sure that this poster looks a certain way. I wanna make sure this tweet is written a certain way.’ That’s how annoying I am. I have these beautiful bodacious women on my show. I wanna make sure that they’re protected in how they’re presented to the world. It’s little stuff like that that I was able to communicate with them about.”
Brunson also credited the ABC publicity team, joking that she knows “they’re annoyed with me, too, but look, I got us a couple of awards. I think it’s OK now.”
The full list of winners is below.
Maxwell Weinberg Award for Motion Picture Publicity Campaign
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures/Skydance/Jerry Bruckheimer Films)
Maxwell Weinberg Award for Television Publicity Campaign
Abbott Elementary (Warner Bros. Television/ABC)
Les Mason Awards for Career Achievement in Publicity
Karen Chamberlain, Warner Bros. Pictures
Andy Reyes, Entertainment Tonight
International Media Award
Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN News (Philippines)
Publicist of the Year Award
Sara Hull, Walt Disney Studios
Excellence in Unit Still Photography Award — Motion Pictures
Excellence in Unit Still Photography Award — Television (Tie)
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle
Bob Yeager Award for Community Service
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