In 2016, National Award-winning filmmaker Vetri Maaran's Tamil drama Visaranai was India's official entry to the 89th Academy Awards. Although, the film didn't make it to the short list, Vetri Maaran made an honest attempt at campaigning for his film in Los Angeles. The campaign cost his producer and frequent collaborator Dhanush, more than the film itself . "Aamir Khan is one of the people inspired me or influenced me to take this decision of going there and trying to see what best we can do with this," said the filmmaker in an interview to us in 2017. Here he tells us what he learnt from his experience of 'wining and dining' in Hollywood.
Get A Great PR Person
The first thing that you need to do is get a PR person who specializes in foreign language Oscar films. This is essential for your campaign. So there are two or three big names. Fredell Pogodin (who heads the movie PR firm – Fredell Pogodin & Associates) is the best. There's another person called Bumble Ward who's also very good. Fredell handled Asghar Farhadi's film, Julieta (Spain's entry for the Best Foreign Language film directed by Pedro Almodóvar) and one more film. She wants to bet on a winning horse so that her track record is good.
Wine And Dine In Los Angeles
The three months of Oscar fever is Los Angeles's summer, where they make hay. So they base the remaining 9 months on these three months. Everything costs. So you start talking and they will say '$15,000 for the promotions till shortlist, if it's shortlisted then another $5,000, then if it's nominated another $5,000, this is just the PR. Hollywood is all about wine and dine. You don't eat lunch, you 'do lunch', you 'do dinner', you 'do breakfast'. Pre-breakfast meeting, breakfast meeting, post breakfast meeting – that's how they live. This wine and dine is a very important, integral part of Los Angeles.
If You Want To Get Noticed, Be Prepared To Splurge
They were giving us options of promoting (the film) by putting out ads on magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. So we said, 'Okay, we will give it a shot'. I said let's do a center spread in the foreign film issue. Two of those cost $32,000 and we did four of them. People started looking at the ads and thought, 'Okay, these are guys with some money from India. Let's give it some credibility. Let's listen to what they have to say.'
Academy Voters Prefer Lighter Films
The biggest lesson we learnt after landing there was that the voting members are elderly people who prefer to watch lighter vein films, emotionally moving films – things they are able to connect to. Even if the content is relevant, if it's not dealt in the way they can handle it, then they are not ready to accept it. Visaranai is one such film. They all accept the violence, how marginalized people are being especially right now in the US, how insecure the minorities are feeling and how the migrant issue has grown out of proportion. It was so relevant but they were unable to handle the harshness of the film.