Covering the year’s buzziest movies, series, and chatter during the feverish time period known as “Awards Season” presents unique challenges. Screenings and screeners can be hard to come by, advanced access is limited, and everyone’s trying to articulate increasingly edgier takes about properties that everyone else is writing about, too. But there are ways to cut through. Ahead of the Golden Globes, Guild awards, and Oscars, Rotten Tomatoes asked editors and awards experts what tips they have for freelancers covering the contenders.
“Read as much as you can from the established pundits who cover awards season and pay attention to the calendar of awards events throughout the year — from the Gothams to the SAG Awards — so you can deepen your understanding of the awards season ecosystem. Your take on the race will have more authority if you make the effort to see how each piece fits into the larger whole.”
“For me, breaking into awards coverage was a 20-year game. I started out in forums, talking about movies, and then building my way up in the ranks, and then ultimately creating my own outlet. That might not be for everyone, but if I had to give any advice to people who want to break in, it would be to say ‘yes’ to everything at first. Publicists will grab onto to you and the reciprocal relationship will hopefully then bring you bigger and better things. I try and answer every email back, even if it’s with a ‘no.’ Be as persistent as they are. It’s respectful and it garners respect. Something else I will tell anyone, freelancer or entrepreneur, know your worth. It took me a long time to get to that, to even knowing what it was. But it made all the difference in the world.”
“After removing the ‘glitz’ and ‘glam’ or just merely watching films and meeting stars for a living, you have to ask yourself, why do you WANT to write? If passion is the foundation for your pitches, then the next course of action is to show how your voice is unique in an industry that has so many perspectives and feels oversaturated. Be persistent, but not rude or overbearing when you receive a ‘no’ or a non-response. Get your foot in the door, no matter how trivial, and show what you’re worth when you’re finally inside.”
“The most consistent factor impacting a journalist’s visibility is speed. International festival coverage – Cannes, Venice, Toronto, etc. – is early in the cycle. From these reviews, studios pull quotes for FYC campaigns, trailers, one-sheets. In addition to notoriety as one of the first 15 to 20 critics on the Rotten Tomatoes listing for a feature, festivals provide resourceful journalists a feel for the rhythm and flow of the entire cycle: what films are being tapped by distributors for their awards potential, how public and press/industry screenings are shaping the distributors public and trade (FYC) marketing campaigns, and which films public sentiment and critical consensus are likely to coalesce around.”
“One of the best assets for a freelancer is cultivating positive relationships with editors. Editors get hundreds of pitches a week. Having familiarity with them is always going to fare better than cold calls. So, make the rounds and say hello at screenings, events, or whenever possible. Get contact information and make sure to follow up. The next most important thing for pitches is uniqueness. If a site has four reporters on staff, then don’t pitch an article they could easily staff out. Give perspective or an outlook they would not normally contemplate. Make sure your pitch is tailored to you and make sure to explain why you’ll be the best person for the job. You can do this in the thoughtfulness of the pitch or with the subject matter. Either way – and forgive the quote, but – ‘Make them a pitch they can’t refuse.’ Best of luck, and pitch away.”