Now that the Golden Globes are over, it's time to focus on the big prize -- the Academy Awards. People think it's difficult to win an Oscar, but that's just a myth perpetuated by Hollywood insiders -- it's a private club and they want to keep out the unwashed. Here are 10 easy tips to help you to take home the Little Gold Man:
1: BE A WORLD-CLASS SCHMOOZER
Getting people to see your film is much less important than getting them to talk about it -- and it all starts with you. When people say "Have you seen...?" nobody wants to seem stupid or out of the loop. Shame people into thinking that they're backing the right horse even though they've never seen it run -- it's worked in politics for decades. This is how a buzz grows to a roar on a film nobody will ever see, but will all smile knowingly when it wins the award.
2: DON'T BE UGLY
Everyone loves good-looking people. Whether they're in front of the camera or behind the scenes, people want the lookers up there on stage. Manicures, pedicures, waxing, Botox -- you need the full human carwash to compete with the big boys. In this age of YouTube, hi-def TV and a hundred glossy magazines, one bad look lives forever and can cause untold damage. So show some cleavage (ladies only, please) and flash those pearly whites -- there's nothing worse than a homely winner. There's a very logical reason they don't have an Oscar for Best Transportation Guy.
3: CAST A HAS-BEEN
There's a group of actors that everybody admires, often referring to them as "actor's actors." This is a nice way of saying that nobody wants to cast them in anything decent since they're either way past their prime, still addicted to something (such as their own former glory) or have appeared in too much crap to pay their mortgages and exes. The Academy loves a comeback. Of course, they may be has-beens for a reason, which you'll discover on your first day of shooting, if they bother to show up at all.
4: DO SOMETHING SCANDALOUS
Commit a crime. Plunder your own company. Use dodgy tax loopholes to finance your film. Anything involving sexual allegations gets you particular brownie points. Most of the voters have spent their whole lives doing horrible, illicit things -- a huge part of their motivation for working in Hollywood in the first place. Otherwise they'd be dentists. Nobody wants to be reminded of how normal people act; they want to know that you're one of their kind, complete with complex perversions and deep, deep moral flaws.
5: LIVE IN LOS ANGELES
This may sound obvious, but you gotta be in it to win it. If you've made the unfortunate choice to base your career in either New York or London (nowhere else even remotely counts), the odds are stacked against you. In LA, where the bulk of the voters reside, daily routines are as precise as the expensive timepieces strapped to their slender wrists. They share adjectives that apply only to Hollywood -- they dine, valet, copulate, vacation, litigate and rehab together. If you're doing these things in the wrong place, you're doing it for naught.
6: SHOW UP EVERYWHERE
This is a corollary to living in Los Angeles. If any award is given to your film by any organization, show up personally, give a self-congratulatory speech and move on to the next event. Bob and weave, bob and weave -- it's like one long heavyweight title fight. The awards season has a rhythm all its own, and voters get caught up in the hype like any other group. The fact that your film was runner-up at the Cuban Alzheimer's Film Festival for the Blind isn't important -- you're a winner (almost) and people love winners.
7: DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET DIRTY
You have to play both sides of the ball, offense and defense. While loudly talking up your own film, you should be quietly disparaging everyone else's. Nothing should be traced back to you, of course, but seeds should be firmly planted at every opportunity. That nominated film based on an amazing true story? I heard there's an elderly but still vital eyewitness in Bolivia who says the filmmakers made up half the story. That heart-wrenching adaptation of the bestselling book? Sure it was beautiful to watch, but wasn't the novel much better? And don't stop with the movies -- feel free to slander the filmmakers too; all's fair in Hollywood and the Oscars.
8: HIRE THE PROFESSIONAL GOONS
Behind the scenes of every nominated film is a team of cold-blooded assassins known as "publicists" or "Academy consultants"; these lovely ladies make the Mossad look like Girl Scouts. Since every vote counts, here is a sample of how these professionals operate: they show up at a retirement home in Zurich where two ancient Academy members happen to be clinging to life. Armed with a portable DVD player, your film, fairly sturdy duct tape and a proxy ballot, they emerge 100 minutes later with two more crucial votes in the bank. You want them on your side -- and you don't want them working for the competition.
9: TAKE CREDIT FOR EVERYTHING
Even if 20 other people helped to produce the movie, be firm and clear that you did everything single-handedly. That $50 million budget? Came out of your own pocket. The tear-jerking scene whose clip seems to run on a loop at every award show? Your idea, not the writer's, actor's or director's. The concept of marrying sound to picture to create a movie? All you. This is not the time or place to be modest. Luckily you're not anyway, but more importantly, there's an award to be won.
10: MAKE AN AMAZING MOVIE
Produce an acclaimed film that is universally hailed by critics; top your achievement by delivering a worldwide commercial success. Create a work of art that resonates with audiences everywhere, guaranteeing it a place in cinematic history that will be remembered for generations to come as a seminal, significant Film.
That last one isn't really that important.
Rick Schwartz has never won an Oscar and probably never will. He thought the funniest movies of 2011 were Bridesmaids and Drive.