The Importance of Awards Season | Emmys, Oscars, Tonys, GRAMMYs

The Importance of Awards Season

Written by on | Acting Industry

The Academy Awards are almost upon us! Are you excited? Have you got your viewing party planned and your personal picks ready to cheer or defend? Awards season is a big fixture on any entertainer’s calendar—whether you’re nominated yourself or a devoted fan watching on. But do these awards really matter? Why do we make such a fuss? What is the importance of award season?

Awards season allows us to check in with the entertainment industry. It grants a broad understanding of what audiences and critics are responding to, which allows us to identify trends and recognise where our industry might be heading. If there are glaring omissions in awards season, we can also learn from this as well: what films or people failed to be mentioned? And why?

Star of Patton and Best Actor winner George C. Scott famously described the Oscars as “a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons.” If your opinion of such (self-) congratulating is similar, we respect that. But this article isn’t here to defend such opinions either way, more speak to the cultural importance of these events.

Envelope poised? Nominees leaning forward? Let’s begin…

What is Awards Season?

Awards season refers to a time period in the entertainment industry calendar in which the major awards are nominated and bestowed. They are primarily associated with the film industry, although this period can also refer to awards in music (Grammys) and television (Emmys).

The period sits loosely across November to April, and is generally thought to peak with the Academy Awards (Oscars) some time in March. The nominations process, for which actors and studios alike campaign vigorously, is highly publicised and is thought of as a part of awards season—even before no firm nominations have been announced.

Which Awards are part of Awards Season?

This is a big list, and one that is fluid depending on who you ask (and which awards are being offered.) Some of the major industry gongs include:

The leading theatre awards follow this list slightly later, with Olivier Awards occurring in April, and the Tony Awards in June.

    Why You Should Care About Awards Season

    Before we get into our list of topics on the subject, take a second to remove your bias. We’re going to forget, at least for now, that awards season can be a lot of fun. And we’re going to set aside your lifelong dream to win an Oscar—although do be sure to check out our article on the topic.

    For all you artistes and buzzkills reading, leave your cynicism at the door. (No shade if you are, by the way: so is the person writing this thing.) Hit pause on your personal judgements and look at awards season as something to learn from.

    Check In with the Industry

    Who’s being celebrated? Who has come out on top? Who is (forgive us) king of the world? Nothing clues you in on the state of the union like awards season. It’s a snapshot of the winners—and in an industry that prides victory and success above all else.

    Keeping track of nominees, winners (and snubs) can help you build a picture of the kinds of artists being valued. What can you learn about whom Hollywood might be searching for? Can you market yourself in the same way?

    Learn What is Celebrated

    Related to the “who” is the “what”. What kinds of stories are resonating with viewers, critics and industry colleagues? Can you identify trends as to the kinds of stories people want and need?

    During the COVID pandemic, we saw an incredible trend towards heartfelt, feel-good stories being told in film and television—particularly in streaming services, where series such as Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso wrapped the world up in big, folksy hugs. With swathes of nominations and wins for each, we were able to determine exactly what kinds of stories were deemed to be important, just by tuning into an awards show filled with all-masks and no-audience. Strange days.

    Know Your Audience

    None of the major entertainment awards are voted for directly by the general public. But this is not to say that the audience opinion of a film or television series has no bearing on its awards season success. Awards season help you identify which films resonated with the public—the stories people truly loved.

    Cynicism break: most awards shows are big business. They rely on audiences tuning in, generating buzz, maintaining relevance and prestige. So it’s safe to say that many awards do nominate films that capture the attention of the movie-going public. How are you meant to cheer on your choices if you’ve had no chance to see them? The same benefit is applies to the people, films and series being nominated. Their careers bolster the prestige of an award, which in turn bolsters their own critical esteem and fame. One fuels the other.

    Of course, this is no hard-and-fast rule. There are many films out there that received incredible reviews and awards, but received little love from audiences. But as a general point, you can look to award nominees and winners and learn a great deal about those who sat in the dark to experience their stories.

    Look for the Gaps

    Here’s where things get interesting. You can learn a lot about your industry, the people and stories it celebrates, by who isn’t being recognised or awarded. Look for the gaps in nominees and winners and ask yourself why that is.

    Consider Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnum opus The Master (2012). It received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix), Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Supporting Actress (Amy Adams) but nothing for director, writing, picture or any of its technical components—which were stunning. Some suggested at the time that it was due to the film being critical of a Certain Organised Religion popular in Hollywood. Which is, just, ridiculous.

    Can we confirm this? Absolutely not. But even the conversation around this supposed sci-fi snub speaks to the entertainment culture of the time. Find the gaps and ask yourself why.

    Find New Passions

    Leaving aside the politics and conspiracies for a second, awards season is a great opportunity to discover new, great things to watch. How many of the Oscar-nominated best films have you seen? All of them? Then move onto the actors, the cinematographers, the original scores…

    Here at StageMilk, we are always encouraging our members to watch more films and read more plays: to engage with the canon and immerse yourself. Awards season is the perfect chance to do exactly this. It also helps to stay relevant when speaking to directors and producers in auditions; prove that you’re up with current trends, and maybe even recommend a hidden gem that you’ve found in the process.

    Our advice on this point is to look beyond the Oscars. Check the BAFTAs, the foreign awards and independent gongs that signal new work from fresh talent. Find it all, see it all. Be a sponge, not a stone!

    Conclusion: It’s Fun

    So there you have it: all the reasons that awards season is important for you to engage with as an actor. Before we wrap this up, let’s go back to something we consciously steered clear from in the above arguments.

    Awards season is fun. It’s exciting! It’s lovely to see who and what are being recognised—especially if it’s somebody you really admire and think deserves the nod. Even for an Oscars-cynic like myself: it warms my heart when the right person wins and it feels like justice has been done.

    And if the only reason you pay attention is to sit with your peers, your creative community, and cheer on the people who inspire you on your acting journey … that’s reason enough. Have fun!

    About the Author

    Alexander Lee-Rekers

    Alexander Lee-Rekers is a Sydney-based writer, director and educator. He graduated from NIDA in 2017 with a Masters in Writing for Performance, and his career across theatre and television has seen him tackling projects as diverse as musical theatre, Shakespeare and Disney. He is the co-founder of theatre company Ratcatch (The Van De Maar Papers, The Linden Solution) and co-director of Bondi Kids Drama, a boutique drama school offering classes to young people in the Eastern Suburbs. Alexander is drawn to themes of family, ambition, failure and legacy: how human nature can flit with ease between compassion and cruelty. He also likes Celtic fiddle, mac & cheese and cats.

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