Publicist to Academy: Don't Ban Us From Oscar Nominations Announcement (Guest Column)

A longtime awards consultant expresses her disappointment in the Academy, which no longer will unveil its nominations before a live audience at its Beverly Hills headquarters: "Nomination morning means more to me than the actual Oscars ceremony."
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Dorothea Sargent, a longtime awards consultant who contributed to the Oscar campaigns of The Reader, No Country for Old Men and The Queen, among many others, wrote the following letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Friday after the Academy announced that it no longer will reveal the Oscar nominees in front of a live audience, as it has done for decades, but instead will produce its own announcement video that it will post on the web and offer to broadcasters.

An open letter to the Academy:

I have been an awards consultant/publicist since 2003. Over the past 14 years I have experienced many incredible moments in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard on Oscar nomination morning. I am one of the diehards who wants to be there instead of in pajamas, in front of a computer screen or a television. I know there is a generation of publicists and consultants content to watch from the comfort of home on their phone. That’s not me.

Let me try to convey to you the magic of that morning for me. I am not an actor, I never opened a Broadway show, never waited for the reviews at Sardi’s. But I know about those things through the magic of films (many of them black-and-white) that I watched with my mother late at night after the 11 PM news back when there were only three networks! Wilshire Boulevard on nomination morning is my Sardi’s opening night.

Something special happens at the Goldwyn Theatre that morning. I drive from the valley in the dark on empty streets full of Oscar nomination hopefulness and anticipation, yes, with some butterflies and perhaps trembling a bit. I gather together with friends, mentors, colleagues and competitors. We all are tired, we have all worked hard, we all have done our very best to service our clients, our films, our filmmakers and storytellers. We have shared an awards season and, truly, only we know what we go through. We are nervous and hopeful waiting to see and hear if we got our message across and got our film and talent invited to "the dance."

Nomination morning means more to me than the actual Oscars ceremony. I see it as a place to gather with this crazy band of publicists and consultants I call my colleagues. I use it to measure my performance and question if I did or didn’t do enough, what worked, what didn’t work — was there more I could have done?

There were years with nominations and there were years with disappointments. There was a year I was proud of and so looking forward to, but instead I spent that morning in the emergency room, having fallen getting out of the shower at 4am! That year one of my nominees got me a ticket to attend the awards and I did so on crutches (waiting until after the awards for the much needed surgery on my knee). While I was moved that she got me the ticket, frankly I would have traded it to have been at the Goldwyn for the nominations announcement instead.

No matter how disappointed I have been driving home that morning, I was always thrilled that I shared that morning in-person with the only people on the planet who remotely understand what I do. I have said repeatedly that nomination morning is the reward for the long hours, the sleepless nights, the screenings, the calendars, the Q&As, the pitches, the endless invitations and rsvps, the meetings and everything else that goes into an awards season.

I am not sure who thought leaving us out was a good idea. Let me assure you, it is not a good idea. That decision-maker has taken away what I have always described to people as "the cherry on the top of my awards season sundae." I often have said that even if I won the lottery, I would continue to do what I do because I love doing it and because I love that dark January morning I spend every year on Wilshire Boulevard. You have taken that away and I am saddened.