What’s a “For Your Consideration” Academy Screener?

disney pixar monsters university logoAs a professional film critic I get a ton of email from PR reps from what feels like every major movie studio on the planet. Whether they’re sharing the third official trailer for a film that’s not out for six months, casting news for a big franchise or a box office milestone that one of their films has just crossed, it’s always interesting industry news.

And then when it gets to be the end of the year the “screeners” show up. More formally these are known as Academy Award Consideration DVD Screeners (very, very rarely will one show up in Blu-Ray format, mostly because of the greater cost of production and distribution, I presume, which is too bad because even mediocre movies look better in HD) and the intention is that they are sent to “members of the Academy”.

What academy? Seriously? And you read my film blog? The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, AMPAS. Still not sure? Consider their domain name: oscars.org. Yeah, those guys. The Oscars.

Now I’ll be candid: I’m not in AMPAS nor do I actually vote on the Academy Awards ballots. Yet!

Still, as co-director of the Denver Film Critics Society and a film critic, I’m on the list anyway, so starting in early November and accelerating at an astonishing rate throughout the month and into December, studios send me DVDs specially produced, mastered and packaged for awards consideration.

They’re all marked by “For Your Consideration” and have pretty cool packaging. Since you have likely never seen anything similar, I thought I’d share the packaging of the screener I received today, for the animated feature Monsters University.

First off, the cover letter:

pixar mnosters university screener cover letter

This one’s relatively mild, actually, because it doesn’t include Draconian warnings about the DVD being specially coded to each recipient and encouraging me to destroy it if I don’t want to agree to their terms. Oh, and after I watch it? I’m supposed to destroy the DVD then. Then again, since at least a dozen of the DVDs I have are films that are still in the theater (and a few films that haven’t even made it onto the big screen here in Colorado yet), I can understand their concern.

Inside the letter is a cardboard DVD case:

monsters university academy screener front cover

You can see at the bottom the “Awards Screener” label.

Where this gets interesting is when you actually open up the case:

pixar monsters u awards screener - inside

As you can see on the left, it shows a list of awards to consider for this particular film, ranging from Best Animated Feature to director, screenplay, production design, cinematography, sound mixing, etc.  The list of suggested award categories reappears on the back cover too, presumably for good luck.

Just about every screener DVD has a big warning about not copying, sharing, distributing, viewing, or even thinking about the film (just kidding on those last few), then it jumps straight into the movie. No previews, no ads, nothing, just the movie itself. When the film ends, the DVD is done, so it’s a nice streamlined way to watch a movie compared to commercial DVD releases that have a half-dozen previews, menus to navigate, etc.

During the film the words “PROPERTY OF {STUDIO}” and “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” both show up at various times and for about 10-15 seconds throughout the film, a rather in-your-face watermark to help ensure that these screeners don’t get out “in the wild” through sharing sites, etc. Where these show up and how long they remain on screen varies by copy, from what I understand, as a mechanism for the studios to trace backwards from an illegal copy of a screener back to the original source.

If you have a friend who is a critic and receives screeners as I do, don’t bother asking to borrow one of their films, by the way. I’ve learned from colleagues and never, ever loan any of my screeners out, nor do I let my children take them to friends houses to watch, etc. Why? Because it’s quite a nice privilege to receive these screeners and the easiest way to ensure that everything stays aboveboard and there are no copying problems or risks is to simply make sure that they’re always in my possession. Most likely, your other critic friends will have the same perspective too.

And now, back to the movie. Hope this was interesting!

10 comments on “What’s a “For Your Consideration” Academy Screener?

  1. I have six “for your consideration screener” movies that I found. Seals are broken on all but one. Can I keep these or should I call the 800 number and send them back to the studio?

    • Depends. If you want to get someone in trouble, call the studios to let them know that FYC’s are in circulation. They’ll want you to send them back so they can figure out who let ’em go in violation of our agreement about getting screener discs. Or you can just destroy them and call it a day. 🙂

  2. Picked up a couple of these today — both animated movies — from my local Charity Shop. They are still sealed.
    Any idea what the legal position is on these? There are no warnings on the DVD cases and they did not come with any covering letter.

    • Interesting. Someone’s at risk here because the studio can track individual FYC releases (as far as I know). From your perspective as a buyer, though, I’m pretty sure you’re fine and will find that they don’t have any extras and do have “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION” along the bottom of the image sporadically, but otherwise should be identical to the eventual DVD release.

    • Ha. Actually DFCS is going strong, but it appears our Web site fell by the wayside. Thanks for bringing that up!

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