Winning awards is for the most part completely useless, unless, you know what to do with them. They are really only half of the equation to unlocking their full power. Learning this the hard way can cost you a lot of money, and worse, opportunity, but hopefully if you know what to do with your awards you will milk them for all they are worth.
Are winning awards worth it?
The burden with winning an award is that you have to tell people you won an award, or at least that is what I’ve found to be true.
If you work in advertising like me, or are a filmmaker, like me, many times you find yourself with this itch to enter into an award show or festival. You’ve made something (or crafted something if that’s your brand of tea) and want to show it off, present it to your peers, give it to an audience to see, and let them tell you what they think about it. It’s costly, emotionally draining, and if the stars align you will get an accolade. This is actually where the real work begins.
First the reasons why not to enter: you want to be instantly famous.
Sure, winning a big award like a Clio or Oscar will definitely get you some juice in your industry, but, first, it’s almost unachievable without a huge machine behind you getting you there and, two, it also doesn’t guarantee anything. I personally have not won either, however, I know a few chosen creative geniuses that have that no one has ever heard of, so, take that as you will.
Like anything, there is a sliding scale to awards. For film, there are literally thousands of film festivals you can enter. You pay a certain amount of money, they screen your film, and you may get an award. It could be a digital laurel for your thumbnail, a paper certificate for the back of your drawer, or a plastic statue with a nameplate that will fall off if you put it in the sun too long. However, it may not matter; seeing your film play on a big screen with any sized audience can be worth the price of admission. It’s fantastic to see your work with other people in a large format, and you can get a lot of value out of that for sure.
Of course there are bigger festivals. Cannes, Tribeca, SxSW, the Oscars. It’s the same setup, you pay (more) to enter, and you get an award (that doesn’t melt) but the real difference is who is in the audience. This is a global interaction with your work, and with that, comes much more potential for career changing influence.
The same goes for advertising. You can enter MarCom or Viddy (which has a suspiciously similar website format) and pretty much buy an award, or you can submit to ADC or Clio and get the world’s most influential people to see your work. The bigger you go, the larger your potential return.
No mater what level you play at however will guarantee fame and secure your career. You have better chances with world renowned festivals, but to be honest, if you’re already making work that can be in those festivals and award shows, I’m not sure you need help being known. Ironic, yes.
You have won an award. Now what?
Winning an award isn’t the end of the road for the film, but rather the beginning. You are now burdened with telling everyone you’ve won an award so that hopefully it will get your name out there, open up doors, and give you new opportunities, but, if you are like me, this part is super cringe.
Making a fun, semi-self deprecating post is one way to deal with it on a grassroots level, and does relatively well. Peers will hopefully respect the humble brag, and haters will hopefully hate you less. Really though, it doesn’t matter, it’s part of your job as a filmmaker to do this, consider it community service. The awards have no intrinsic value unless you put them to work for you.
One way to do that effectively is hiring a PR agency. This is a nightmare all to itself. There are many out there, but the reality of them taking on your project is slim, and the cost is huge for anyone that is worth anything. There are plenty of services like Newswire, Presswire, or Cision where you can submit your own press release which will hopefully get the attention of media outlets like Shoot, Filmmaker Magazine, or Adweek. You can even download templates to help you write them in the proper format to increase your chances. Good luck.
In the end it is a mixed bag. The cost to enter festivals and industry award ceremonies is costly, up to 1,000 USD in some cases. Then if you win, some award shows require you to purchase your own award statue which is hilarious to me. Then, you have to hire a PR person to get that news out in the hopes that someone influential will see it and take notice. It’s a tremendous amount of input for a gamble that might not yield any results.
The Take-a-way: Yes. (If you like shiny things).
If you skipped down here to see if winning awards is worth it then you are probably the right person to go after them. If you place too much importance on them and think they will change your career or open doors for you then you will probably be let down. Awards are good for the ego, and being part of the festival circuit is a great way to connect to your industry for sure, but they are no magic pill for success. Invest in the work if you care about success because at the end of the day, that’s really the only thing anyone is concerned with, and you’ll have the same amount of shelf space and less things to clean at the end of the day.
About the Author:
Roberto Serrini is a LA/NYC based Filmmaker who works as a commercial director in advertising. He is the recipient of multiple film festival and industry awards including two Taste Awards, two ADC Gold Cubes and a One Show Silver Pencil. His work can be seen at www.robertoserrini.com