An Oscars Upset


When reflecting on this year’s Oscars, I was rather shocked that the award for best picture didn’t go to La La Land (mostly because it was by far my personal favorite). With City of Stars stuck in my head, I couldn’t but help an audible groan when I found out that La La Land wasn’t the winner. Moonlight, this year’s winner for best picture, was a movie I, like most Americans, paid little attention to. The film only grossed 22.2 million USD, and only claimed to have spent 1.5 million USD. Yet, after the Oscar win, the film is now on track to pass 40 million USD, internationally. So is this the story of the academy recognizing great art, and giving more credence to independent filmmakers in the face of massive hollywood films? Yes, and no.

The film is indeed a departure from the general hollywood blockbuster film, complete with advertising, big name actors, and a hefty budget. The fact that a film of such small caliber could be considered as well put together as some larger films is remarkable in itself. However, let us not view the Academy and those who made Moonlight as magnanimous individuals looking to change the status quo. In fact, if Moonlight only spent 1.5 million to make the movie, then a serious investment on the part of the filmmakers paid off--getting considered for the award.

The Academy isn’t an all-seeing group of film aficionados, who happened across Moonlight. According to some news sources, to be considered for a nomination, one has to submit a special copy of one’s film along with 300,000 dollars to be considered for a nomination. If this 300,000 dollar claim is true, then that would represent a massive chunk of the film’s budget--20%--being dedicated to simply campaign for the award (at least.) This “investment” into the film (i.e. ‘advertising’ in a non-conventional sense) paid off hugely for the filmmakers. A 300,000 dollar investment with at least an 18 million dollar return is a 6,000% return--not too shabby.