How the Golden Trailer Awards Pivoted to a Hybrid Format for the 2021 Ceremony

Image Courtesy of the Golden Trailer Awards

Evelyn Brady-Watters and Monica Brady—sisters and co-founders of the long-running Golden Trailer Awards (GTAs)—were as devastated as anyone over the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancelation of last year’s ceremony. But they did find a silver lining in it.

“Since we started in 1999, we have been off. It was always ‘GTA 20’ in a different year,” Monica Brady tells Boxoffice Pro. But thanks to last year’s cancelation, the numbers now align. “’GTA 21′ lines up with the year 2021,” Monica continues. “So that might be the blessing that comes out of all this.”

Like event organizers the world over, the Bradys were forced to pivot amid the pandemic, which forced a shutdown of live events in the U.S. and other countries. Following the disappointment of last year’s cancelation, the sisters made the decision to forge ahead with this year’s show—which combines the 2019 and 2020 nominees—albeit in a different form than any previous GTA ceremony.

“Hollywood has taught the world the show must go on from the early days of vaudeville… It’s a mantra in our industry,” says Monica. “But up against the pandemic, the show doesn’t go on. We kept trying different iterations [of the 2020 show], and then we just decided to combine the two years into one.”

The Bradys stumbled upon the idea for the Golden Trailer Awards almost by accident. After Monica graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of Film and Television Production in the late ’90s, the sisters snagged the adaptation rights to Ron Carlson’s 1977 novel Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald and set about looking for someone to cut a trailer for the project. But at the time, the names of trailer editors were nearly impossible to come by.

“We couldn’t find who these trailer editors were, because they weren’t credited at the end of the film [and] they’re not credited at the end of the trailer they cut themselves,” says Monica. “We said, ‘Well, there’s got to be an awards show for them.’ That’s how we were going to go look for who these folks were. And then we went out and there wasn’t. So Evelyn said, ‘Well, let’s do the awards show for feature film trailers.’”

Since launching in 1999, the Golden Trailer Awards has grown to encompass a whopping 119 categories—including 12 new categories introduced this year—due to the rapid expansion of avenues for film and TV marketing and promotion (notably, just 16 categories are presented during the ceremony). Jury members in past years have included Quentin Tarantino, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, and Neil Jordan—bold-faced names whose participation became a marker of the show’s elevated influence.  

Evelyn Brady-Watters and Monica Brady (Photo Credits: Jeroen Bours and Margee Moore/Big Orange Marketing)

Fast-forward to January 2021. Still smarting from the forced cancelation of last year’s show, the Bradys began strategizing how to tackle this year’s ceremony. “We can’t really forge ahead with New York or L.A., because chances are it’s going to remain locked down,” says Evelyn of their thinking at the time. While visiting Northeast Tennessee to take meetings for their new tech startup, they made a side trip to the 1,150-seat Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville and found the perfect venue.

“We were like, ‘This is where we’re going to do the show,’” says Evelyn. “And they’re like, ‘Well, good news, the state’s open for business. It’s only at half capacity, but you can do your show here.’”

Like several other awards shows that have taken place since the start of the pandemic, this year’s Golden Trailer Awards—typically held in Los Angeles—are going with a hybrid formula. After being invited by both the Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards to take a look at their livestream setups, the Bradys decided on the livestream platform Looped for its broadcast quality video and ability to host a series of virtual rooms for the nominees. “The technology is there to do these live streams where you can have breakoff rooms, where people can go do networking and stuff like that,” says Monica.

Meanwhile, the in-person audience—which typically numbers around 1,200 in a non-pandemic year—will be made up of frontline workers from Greeneville and the surrounding communities. This is the Bradys’ way of saying thank you to those who kept society functioning, and saved lives, at the height of the pandemic in the U.S.

“Their escape when they go home from these days of all the work that they’re doing, is they turn to movies and television as therapy,” says Monica. “So it’s a reciprocal [relationship]. Everybody’s thanking everybody for keeping spirits up.”

The 2021 Golden Trailer Awards will be streamed Thursday (July 22) beginning at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET via Looped. Winners will be picked by a jury consisting of producer Declan Baldwin (Manchester by the Sea), producer Dan Janvey (Nomadland),  writer/director/producer Anne Wheeler (Firefly Lane), and writer/producer duo Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (the James Bond franchise).

You can find more information on the ceremony here.

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