Hollywood awards season, which kicks off with the Golden Globes in January and culminates with the Academy Awards at the end of February, has more stories -- heroes, villains, saviors, twists, turns, machinations, recriminations, rejuvenations, regenerations, and in some cases, regurgitations -- than a Charles Dickens novel on steroids. For folks who have pictures in these contests, it's both "the best of times" and "the worst of times."
The most intriguing narratives are the stories behind the stories, which in their telling can propel the success or failure to capture the Oscar. The media, studios, agents, and PR folks are all participants in this game of telling and selling. Millions of dollars and careers ebb and flow during the process. What is the secret of their tell to capture the votes of Academy membership?
In Hollywood, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. The margin of difference may simply turn on the confidence and certainty of the right people in the right rooms being able to tell the story of the film they support. The story they tell is not merely about how deserving the film is to win, but how certain it is that it will win. In Hollywood, everyone wants to vote for the winner. So the "tell" becomes stories interpreting prior awards including kudos and accolades and how these stories will influence the voters for the Oscar.
The magic takes place in those events put on by various stakeholders where they get the folks in the room, breathing the same air, face to face, to tell their stories -- as opposed to letting the story ride on the flickering images on the screen. The Academy is cognizant of this kind of purposeful telling of stories and tries to prevent egregious politicking that in years past has been so powerful on the outcome -- who wins and who loses. After all, what is great politicking, but the telling of purposeful stories that influence the greatest outcome?
As many Hollywood movers and shakers know, nothing replaces breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other's micro-expressions. Michael Wesch, the Kansas State University cultural anthropologist, described at one of the narrative conclaves I hosted at my home that there are over 4,000 of these micro-expressions including pauses, eye contact, body language and gestures that we make in the room. They're subtle, but critical to creating empathy. He explained that we subconsciously pick up on them when we're in the room and both the mind and the heart recognize these signals. Hollywood tellers of stories in such venues are in the emotional transportation business and they can hijack the competition.
The most consistently effective and efficient tellers of stories embeds the facts, figures and information they want the listeners to know in their story, their Trojan horse, and then step back, surrendering proprietorship over the story and allowing it to morph, grow and be virally marketed by the attendees who have heard this tell and can and will influence the outcome.
So how will the purposeful stories of 2011 influence voters, press, bloggers and other stakeholders to ensure the Oscar win? Who will experience "happily ever after?" In a world in which certainty is an illusion, one thing's for sure, there will be an epilogue of stories decoding who won or lost and why.