On the Friday before the Oscars, the publicists get their moment in the spotlight. The annual ICG Publicists Awards is an occasion for publicists, journalists, still photographers and, yes, even celebrities, to honor the work of the men and women who are frequently operating behind the scenes. The 57th annual Publicists Awards Luncheon will be held Friday, February 7, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
600 Live! spoke with Awards Chair Tim Menke about the 2020 event.
600Live!: How has the event changed or evolved in the years you have been involved?
Tim Menke: Henri Bollinger was the driving force behind the annual luncheon, and I think, at its core, we’re still about his vision that we need to take time out, just a moment from our workday, to just recognize what we do. Who are we and what do we do? We need to celebrate.
600Live!: Which is a little ironic since publicists are known for operating behind the scenes, securing recognition for other people.
TM: Total irony, yes. So it’s time to step up and just say “look at us,” as opposed to being behind the scenes.
600Live!: Are there any new additions to this year’s event?
TM: This year we’re implementing a new award which we call the Publicist of The Year Award, so that’s a kind of an example of a change. I feel there’s more and more interest every year. Our membership this year in particular is breaking records in terms of the amount of participation of the membership voting.
600Live!: Tell me a little more about the Publicist of the Year Award. How did that award come about?
TM: We have a committee of 30 people that work throughout the year to organize the event. We give awards to unit publicists and still photographers, we give awards to journalists both domestic and international, and we have honorees for Motion Picture and TV Showman of The Year. We have lifetime achievements and we have some publicity-centric awards, but the group decided that maybe we needed one more. We have the Les Mason Award which is recognizing a publicist for a career achievement. The Publicist of The Year will be for who in the last 12 months had a significant achievement.
600Live!: How will that award be determined?
TM: Our members will look at a colleague and say, ‘That was an especially good year for that colleague’ and put their name forward as a potential nominee. The top five nominees who are mentioned the most are on the ultimate final ballot, and they each write a 50-word statement of their highlights. When we got the list of nominees, we didn’t want it to just be a popularity contest in terms of who likes who more. So we have each of the five nominees write a 50-word statement about their accomplishments in the past year. On the final ballot, the 50-word statements are there.
600Live!: How does the committee work? How often do you meet?
TM: We get serious in September. We will have a meeting immediately after the upcoming luncheon to sort of just analyze what worked, what didn’t work and we will make notes so we can build on that for the future. We take a couple of months off and get together again in August and September and then meet monthly from that point on. We have a committee that will figure out who should be the honorees for the next coming year. We all bring something unique to the table.
600Live!: What have been some of the highlights of the events of past luncheons?
TM: It’s the moments when a publicist is being honored and we’ve made the effort to have someone in that publicist’s life – say at a celebrity level – be there to present them the award that day. One year, Jennifer Allen was the Les Mason Award winner, and one of her clients is Matt Damon, and he came and made a very personal approach. One year, Stan Rosenfeld was recognized as an outstanding publicist and George Clooney came in the back door, surprised Stan and sang his praises. It’s those kinds of special moments when things get personal and the honoree or award winner is very touched.
600Live!: What made you personally want to get involved in helping to produce the event?
TM: One of the awards is called the Maxwell Weinberg award and that’s for outstanding publicity campaign of the year. As a studio publicist, I don’t get to choose the films I work on. So, it’s always a challenge and fun to come up with the best campaign to put on the film. In the process of doing my job, there were moments where it was like, “That was a really good campaign.” At the January meeting, the studios are invited to come and make presentations to the committee, and I got involved being a presenter to the committee. Then Henri – like in a mentorship role – coerced me into being on the committee, and I’ve been there ever since. And I really enjoy it.
600Live!: When the committee meets after the event to debrief, what sorts of things do you talk about?
TM: We traditionally try to recognize an anniversary within the industry, maybe not related to publicity. Last year, we recognized three anniversaries and it was decided in our post-mortem meeting that maybe a little bit too much time was devoted to anniversaries. While we’re taking a moment from our work day, we still have a work day, so we want to not keep everyone there too long.
600Live!: People go back to work after the luncheon?
TM: I think we all do. We’re on the weekend of the Academy Awards so there’s a lot of activity going on. Publicity never sleeps.
600Live!: Would you share your thoughts on your co-chair, Sheryl Main, being recognized with the Henri Bollinger Award?
TM: It’s well-deserved. She’s an amazing publicist and she knew Henri well. They were a very good team. She was always helping him with the awards. Henri [posthumously] received the first award [bearing his name] last year. This is an award that the committee chooses as opposed to having it voted on by all the [publicist] membership and it was unanimously decided. Sheryl is dedicated, hard-working, energetic and so dedicated to the profession that we wanted her to receive the second Henri Bollinger Award.