What is a film award?
A ceremony/event/occasion organised for film/movie professionals during which trophies/medals/statutes are given out to deserving persons, usually for excellence in filmmaking in a particular film year. During this time, the crème of the crème of the film industry gather together to honour their peers for outstanding work. In some cases, the objectives may include the promotion of arts and culture as is the case for the Indian National Film Award.
How are film awards categorised?
Typically, film awards are divided into at least two broad categories that include feature films and non-features. Each broad category can, in turn, have its own sub-categories that recognise the many facets of filmmaking. These can include recognition for best directing, best acting, best picture quality, best original score, and more. Sometimes, best film genres are recognised such as best comedy, best drama, best thriller, etc.
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Who conceived film awards?
The first film award date to late 1929 and was organised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), an organisation founded by Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). At that event, 12 awards were handed out in an event that lasted a quarter of an hour. It is said that Mayer conceived the award as a means to stave off unionisation efforts in Hollywood. Whatever the truth or otherwise of this allegation, Mayer did recognise a value of extrinsic motivation as this quote attributed to him suggests:
“I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them. […] If I got them cups and awards they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.”
The rest, as the saying goes, is now history and movie/film awards are now globally organised to recognised excellence in the industry, to promote art and culture, to foster unity and cooperation among professionals, amongst other laudable objectives. Examples include Africa Movie Academy Award for movies produced in Africa and in the diaspora, The British Academy Film Awards, European Film Awards for European Films, Palme d’Or for movies screened during the annual Cannes Film Festival, Golden Bear from Berlin International Film Festival, Golden Globe Awards organised by the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations, National Film Award for Bollywood, amongst others.
What films are eligible for award consideration?
There are several, often stringent, criteria which are used to qualify a film for consideration for an award recognition and this varies from one award to another, and even within the same award, criteria can vary depending on the category. Take for instance the rule for eligibility for the Foreign Film category for the Academy Award, it is not just enough that the film in question is produced abroad, but as a minimum 70 % of the dialogue must be in another language other than English or pidgin English, and the dialogue must be suitably subtitled in English.
The onus is on interested filmmakers and actors to know what the rule says for the award category for which they are interested in participating. That in the writer’s opinion is a prerequisite for any serious movie professional with an eye on an award. It’s quite simple really, keep an eye on the rule and produce with an aim to win. It is highly unlikely that a movie will just qualify out of the blue if there has been no conscious effort to produce an outstanding piece of art. That to some extent accounts for the failure of Nollywood, so far, to submit a qualifying movie for the Foreign Film category to the Oscar.
How are award winners selected?
Selecting the winners of an award can take different forms. Typically, a jury is constituted to judge nominations for each award category as is the case for Africa Movie Academy Awards. The juries are adjudged by the organisers to be experts in the film industry, industry professionals, cultural figures and are chosen for their knowledge in cinema and filmmaking. In some cases, such as the Hollywood’s Academy Awards (aka Oscar), winners are chosen via a voting system. In this case, eligible voters are mailed nomination forms containing nominees, the results are collated by an independent body and are only revealed at the award ceremony. Yet in some instances, award winners are chosen by members of the public as is the case for the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), where the public are asked to vote for best acts and actors.
Whatever the format used, once selected, the names of the winners are written on a card placed in sealed envelopes. Each envelope contains a winner for each unique category. The idea, I suspect, is to keep everyone, even the organisers guessing and to heighten the excitement and anticipation. After all, who would want to attend an award ceremony that the winner is already known? Oftentimes, when a jury is selected to choose the winners of an award ceremony, a special category of ‘People Choice Award’ is added. The winner of this category is voted for by the public. This makes perfect sense as movies are generally produced for the edification of the public, so give the public the chance to vote for their favourite act! Another interesting category awards for individuals for long service in the film industry such as Lifetime Achievement Award presented to veteran actors Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva at the AMAA 2016.
So I won a film award! What next?
First things first. Congratulation on your achievement! Not many professional can lay claim to that. So, feel free to wine and party till daybreak. Pose for photographs, smile and speak to the press and posts some pictures on social media. You deserve it! Then get ready for the next project. It gets tougher. Expectations are higher and you cannot afford to rest on your oars. No doubt your asking rate skyrockets. You can and pick and choose what projects you get involved with and what circles you move in. There will be significant demand for your time and opinion, and your name would open doors seamlessly – pecks or headaches you decide.
A final word
Film awards have their critics (which is beyond the scope of this piece), nonetheless, they are here to stay, in the foreseeable future at least. If not for the support and promotion they provide for filmmakers and actors at least for the glamour, glitz and entertainment they provide for the avid movie follower.