Don the Curmudgeon's Corner
Maximizing Your Chances at Winning A Porn Award Or At Least Gaining The Recognition You Deserve
Okay, while the last big award show of the season worth a spit is working on nominations (the XRCO), the usual catcalls regarding award shows being “fixed” or otherwise screwed up are being made in droves. XBiz announced their winners a few weeks ago and AVN just concluded, the simple equation that if 20 people are nominated for a particular award, only one will stand victorious makes for a lot of potential sour grapes. Most nominees take it in stride but those who were not picked to be one or even a limited number of the top picks themselves, always seem to get frustrated when a peer gets picked over them. As a public service, I figured I would provide a few ideas to help performers, directors, and companies that want some recognition for their work, none of this officially endorsed by any of the voting groups or those that run them (yet).
First, the best way to start the process of winning an award is to make a great fucking movie or have a fantastic fucking scene. By doing so, you raise the chances that someone, somewhere, will spread the word about it and the news goes viral. Performers that provide great eye contact with their partners, actively get into their scenes, and show they are having fun stand a much better chance with me of gaining some free press than those who look like they are dead inside, those that look like a deer caught in a headlight at night, or grunt loudly through their scenes as though the louder they are, the better they come across. Movies with high production values, showing greater care with casting top performers with some chemistry, and providing a lot of fuck for the buck also raise their chances with me.
Second, assuming you’ve taken the first step and made a first class scene, movie, or website, you have to decide how you are going to get the word out. Relying on social media alone is about as risky as relying solely on a distributor to promote you as the next great thing. It could work out but given that everyone else is spamming the shit out of the world, a more focused approach is usually in order. You could hire a world class publicist like Adella (if you are in porn, you know her or have at least heard just how good she is) who will use her connections to all the right people and groups or, lacking that kind of funding, pick someone else that can assist you but this is a path that still demands you participate. Hiring a quality publicist and failing to heed their advice is like refusing to listen to your attorney when you are on trial for murder, you may get lucky but why bother with the expense if you aren’t going to take full advantage of what you are paying for?
So, sales are brisk and half a dozen slavering fanboys are following you around the internet forums like lost puppy dogs trying to get a hug. You’re all set, right? Hardly, which is why knowing something about each voting organization tends to help you direct your energies accordingly to the people that actually nominate and/or vote for winners.
1) XBiz has a “pre-nomination” process that begins in the fall, allowing anyone in the industry to suggest you as a top pick worth adding to their increasingly exhaustive lists. Some see this as a faulty process since people often nominate themselves or their own works but if you step back a bit, keep in mind that even these days, thousands of titles are released every year. No one, not Roger, myself, or anyone else on Earth has enough time or energy to watch each one of them. This means XBiz can rely on advertisers alone as some suggest already happens or they can ask for help by knowledgeable members of the industry, the company selecting the latter which is why they have the pre-nom method in place. From there, they whittle it down by asking others to assist them in more formalized choices, the Xcritic team assisting them (among others presumably) with this second step before they finalize the list of actual nominees and ask companies for a couple copies of each title. The final selections are made in-house for voting by a very small number of uncredited voters, only two true power players existing when it all comes down to the final pick.
2) AVN has a different process, keeping the nomination process in-house where their appointed committee pours over scores of releases, some input solicited from outside but on a less formal basis. When the final picks are made, they invite a select group of knowledgeable reviewers to join them in voting, the lists circulated to production companies currently containing around 30 voters (several from Xcritic). In this group, the production companies are asked to send each voter all their titles so they can be watched in a narrow time frame and then rank ordered from best to worst. As expected, this wave of porn overwhelms many of the voters, the sheer volume more than anyone can watch if they have not been watching all year. Waiting until the last minute to send this group of voters your movies means they will not get the full, undivided attention they may deserve (or need) for the best possible result. Since most of the voters also review for various publications or websites, this is a key area for smart producers to take advantage of; sending titles when they can be leisurely reviewed or watched rather than during the rush of voting time.
3) The X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO) is different from the other two big names in awards by virtue of it is a nonprofit organization not subject to advertisers. Many of them work for the other two or have worked for them but the group is a broader section of industry reviewers and insiders, numbering around 40 these days. Their nominations start in January after the other shows are over and the team all contribute picks from the previous year to whittle down as a group for a relatively small number of awards. Whereas XBiz and AVN have close to 150 awards each, XRCO has 30, just enough overlap to cover the majority of quality releases without so much of the minutia involved in individual scenes, toys, or websites. Some companies send screeners to all voters throughout the year while others make attempts to send things out in January but unlike AVN, this is a completely voluntary exercise on their part, albeit one providing substantial advantage given that more people seeing something typically means more will like it.
There are quirks to each of the above three but given the relatively small size of the voting pool, especially due to overlap between the three, there are opportunities out there for those wise enough to take advantage of them if you’ve already tackled the ones listed above. The major tip is to make sure you send copies of your movies to as many of the voters as reasonably possible. While there are some lineup changes that take place each year, most of those who vote tend to do so over time for years, building up a degree of expertise that cannot be gained overnight. If you are a performer, you might get permission from some of the companies you worked for to create your own compilation of best scenes too, burning off a few dozen discs and sending them out media mail far cheaper than hiring a publicist but sure to generate insider buzz as you make sure voters have seen your selected works. If you don’t, you are at the mercy of the fates since some voters see a small number of big name titles while others focus on specific genres, the possibility that your best work goes unnoticed just too high to leave it to others. Providing access to your website, a porn resume, and other touches do not hurt you either, keeping in mind that no one is going to champion someone or some movie they haven’t seen.
As a side note, a lot of angry people routinely claim that the only way to win an award or be nominated is to advertise in the appropriate places; typically AVN or XBiz. Advertising only raises the awareness of those who vote in many cases, the long ago past where all voting was done in-house certainly raising the possibility of collusion but proven time and again to make no sense since most of the big competitors tend to advertise about the same amount, many who have never spent anything on advertising winning out over them. Advertising where voters see it can’t hurt but it is no panacea for propping up a piece of crap movie as a winner, no matter what you may have heard by someone who lost.
Be aware that people vote for all sorts of reasons too, all of us having personal favorites or what we look for. Directors or companies that want the best chance of getting voters to really look at their works closely need to use top talent, not get too far outside the accepted norm (make the sex too brutal and it turns many voters off, make it too artistic and it kills it for others), and pay attention to what they say on social media. If your movie has a lot of scenes with a performer spreading STD’s or trash talking their peers all the time, that might be the deciding factor in votes or in a rank order system when all else is equal, performers that only do a limited number of scenes or have a very narrow laundry list for what they will do on camera are certainly going to reduce their chances should some voters expect a wider array of cunning stunts to be engaged in.
So, a quick recap of what helps boost your chances amounts to giving yourself quality exposure to those who vote in awards, maintaining a quality porn resume, and creating positive buzz about a movie or set of scenes. I’ll sum it up with a quote from Calvin Coolidge, a President of the United States from years back who said it like this:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
If you are unsure about what kind of positive press and potential sales are generated by awards, keep in mind that these kudos alone won’t boost anything by themselves, you need to use them as part of a larger marketing plan to get the most bang for your buck. They are a mid point to bigger and better things, but only if you press on to make it so. Complaining that you should have won something or someone else was “better” always assumes you know the world better than it knows you, a possibility but one full of all the dangers of self delusion. If any of you want to discuss this via email, by all means feel free to do so, I will make space available for counterpoints if they amount to more than generic rants disguised as pseudo-intellectual ramblings. There are other tips you can use to enhance your chances of gaining recognition but first and foremost, make a better product or provide a better service first.