Interview: Erik Anderson of AwardsWatch

AwardsWatch‘s head honcho Erik Anderson agreed to speak to me last week. I wanted to grill him on the whole awards season blogger progress and how his site and forum fits in, as well as what he loves about those Oscars.

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Robin Write: I’m going to ask a couple of random questions to get the ball rolling.

Erik Anderson: Sounds good.

RW: Er, what is your favorite breakfast?

EA: I rarely eat breakfast, but I’m trying to more recently. Coffee, obviously, and eggs with toast.

RW: Crispy bacon? Bagel? Cream cheese?

EA: Bacon sometimes, but not crispy. No to bagel and cream cheese. Too carb heavy!

RW: We’re not going to be friends for long.

EA: [laughs] Oh believe me that doesn’t mean I’m not a carb whore sometimes, I am. Just not for breakfast, usually. Unless I’m traveling, then I eat everything in sight.

RW: Okay. So, on that note, where do you long to go in the world that you have not been to before?

EA: Australia, the South Pacific, Thailand, Central America. I haven’t really been to that many places, sadly.

RW: Imagine we met as little kids, what films would you want me to watch?

EA: Not sure what our age differences are but pretending we were the same age at the same time I’d say Pete’s Dragon and Grease.

RW: Right. We’re both just kids. Who were your favorite actors and actresses growing up? Heroes? Crushes?

EA: That sort of brings me back to Grease. It was my favorite movie at the time so John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were my ‘favorite’ actors. I remember once I said I had wished they were my parents. Sorry mom!

[Laughter]

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EA: Crushes? Jon from the TV show Chips. [laughs] Heroes? David Bowie and Boy George when I was a teenager.

RW: Did you love Labyrinth?

EA: I did! Except for Jennifer Connelly, ugh.

RW: She was a bit whiny?

EA: Very whiny. To the bog of eternal stench with you!

RW: At the time to me she was like the older girl at school I quite liked.

EA: Interesting. Did that make you like her less or more?

RW: Well I liked her just in that film. But the whiny thing grated on me more I watched it.

EA: Revisiting films and characters as an adult can sometimes make you question your childhood. [Laughs]

RW: I know. I started watching Labyrinth recently with my 4 year-old daughter, but realized it might give her the wrong idea about her baby brother. I turned it off.

EA: [Laughs] Good thinking!

RW: Will likely finish it when her behavior improves. When and how did you start writing about the movies then?

EA: I’ve always been a rabid fan of movies and awards shows since I was a kid. I had several jobs in video stores to keep that addiction going strong and started writing reviews, which I’m terrible at, there. This was the 90s-ish before I really discovered the internet and chat and stuff. Around 1999 or 2000 I found GoldDerby and my mind was blown by all of these people talking about movies and the Oscars. I was hooked.

RW: So tell me about your time working with Tom O’Neil and the gang back then?

EA: Um. Well, I really enjoyed the forums and that’s where I stayed. Tom was very active in the forums back then and him and I butted heads quite often. Sometimes it was playful, sometimes less so. I grew to be a pretty popular person there and challenged him one too many times and I was banned.

RW: Wowsers. Are you still banned?

EA: I’m not sure! I was sneaky and came back with an alter-ego for a short time, that was fun. I would say Tom and I have a respectful relationship now though.

RW: So you speak to Tom now?

EA: Eh, not really, but we don’t fight.

RW: What part did you play in the OscarWatch years? How did that come about? Where you around during the name change?

EA: Well, being banned from GoldDerby is what led me to what was then OscarWatch. It was very different than GD. I think I came to OW in 2001 when The Lord of the Rings was coming out. There were these ‘factions’ and teams, of sorts, and I liked the rivalry thing. It was kinda funny, a little weird, sometimes too serious. But I wasn’t a part of it so it was fun to observe.

RW: Did Sasha ban you too?

EA: No. She was active in the forums at the time too and over a few years I rose up to being the admin of the forums until just a few years ago. We had an issue in 2013 when some members were saying some pretty nasty things about her, and I admittedly said some not-so-nice things, and she found out and was pretty angry. It hurt our relationship for a while but we are in a very good place now. I wouldn’t exist doing what I do without her, I owe her everything. She’s a great inspiration, she’s the only woman, still, doing what she’s doing at the capacity she’s doing it. I have great admiration and respect for her.

RW: So AwardsWatch. Tell me how that came about? When did it really take off?

EA: Well, it came about as a result of the dust-up with Sasha. But from the ashes rose AwardsWatch. It started off slow, I had never run a website or front page endeavor before, just a forum. I worked hard on content and my social media game and during the 2013 and 2014 Oscar seasons it grew. I think the tipping point was when Sony Pictures Classics used a quote of mine in the Still Alice trailer and FYC ad. I was gobsmacked and surprised. That it was for a Julianne Moore film made it all the better. It gave AW visibility and legitimacy.

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RW: Yeah website upkeep is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Ever wanted to just quit?

EA: Yes, almost every day. [Laughs] It takes up nearly all of my time and that digs into my family and home time to a negative degree. Even though it’s ramping up to awards season I have had to make some changes to keep a better balance.

RW: Right. There are so many Oscar bloggers now. Do you feel you’re all in alliance or in competition with each other?

EA: I think there’s both. I have tried to be friends or friendly with as many as possible and I’ve guested on podcasts and had them on mine. I like it when it’s more of a community like that. We all come with different ideas or inside info but our core inspiration and drive is essentially the same.

RW: Although I try to avoid the whole predictions fiasco to some extent, do you think we talk about it way too early?

EA: I don’t, personally. I like to think it’s a year-round sport. There’s a lot of fun being an early supporter of something that pays off. On that note though, I haven’t been super lucky with that recently. I was deep in for Joy last year and Unbroken the year before. [Laughs]

RW: Oh dear. Joyless and broken you might say.

EA: Indeed. [Laughs] But I don’t take it that seriously and I poke fun at myself for bad predictions.

RW: I predicted Spotlight and didn’t really budge last year when nobody else was. Just putting that out there. I know Tom [O’Neil] changed his mind last minute.

EA: Last year was so wacky and fun though. There was such a lack of consensus. Good call for you though!

RW: So we really ought to talk quickly about the Oscars? Why oh why do you love them so?

EA: Ah the Oscars. I state in my bio on AW that my love and obsession for them began at a very early age. I watched them with my mother and it’s always among my favorite childhood memories. It really just grew from there.

RW: My parents never watched the Oscars or stuff like that. I was alone on that one. Okay, what are some of your biggest Oscars moments? I’m talking the greatest and the very worst.

EA: Greatest – Julianne Moore winning, Cher winning. I realize that’s going to seem pretty gay but, yep! Worst – Crash over Brokeback Mountain. That sting will never go away. Roberto Benigni winning also awful. I love the crazy random moments that happen – like the woman who stormed the stage a few years ago during one of the Shorts wins. That was awesome.

RW: The Crash year and Shakespeare in Love year were both strange. Effing campaigning.

EA: Campaign vs Quality, the great Oscar debate.

RW: We’ll have to cover that in a separate conversation.

EA: That is indeed a whole conversation.

RW: To finish. Do you visit my site? And what advice would you have for someone like me, with my site, trying to make it further than I am already?

EA: I have. I like it and you have really good content. Between interviews and pieces it’s a good site. I think social media presence is extremely important. I spend more time crafting tweets, retweeting and subtweeting than I’d like to but it gets you out there. Plus, when Jessica Chastain or Octavia Spencer hollas back at you it’s like ok, this is working.

RW: Yeah. I’ve had a few film people like stuff I have tweeted.

EA: It’s nothing and it’s everything, you know?

RW: Perhaps you could write a piece for my site sometimes, I’m always looking to branch out. I have to now. Hire writers and get people committed.

EA: Perhaps I could! I need to branch too, I think. Bring more people in to shoulder the weight, write some things. Exactly.

RW: It’s been great talking. We should connect more.

EA: Same here! I’m honored, honestly. And yes, we need to stay connected and build each other up, I would like that.

RW: Thanks for your time. See you soon no doubt.

EA: Thank you!

* * * * *

Erik Anderson can be found at AwardsWatch here:

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