Could Hollywood possibly need another awards show?
Darren D. Dickerson believes so. For seven years, the veteran entertainment industry publicist and event planner has been developing an idea for the Myriad Honors, a new awards program that would focus on minority and foreign talent often overlooked by Hollywood’s statuette-distributing establishment.
Dickerson said more people are agreeing with him in the wake of last week’s Academy Award nominations, which saw the predominantly white and older male voting group give all 20 acting slots to Caucasians and only two nods — Best Picture and Original Song — to the acclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. drama “Selma.”
“I think that 2014 was such an extraordinary year culturally that, for whatever reason, this particular snub became the mother of all snubs,” Dickerson said of the Oscar nominations, which triggered a firestorm of criticism in the media and on the Internet. “It caused a reaction that’s resulted in people actually having an interest in doing something about it.”
Groups that had been merely interested in helping Dickerson launch the inclusive-minded Myriads are fully committed now, he said.
A few days before the 87th Academy Awards on Feb. 22, the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Public Relations Society will co-host a reception with Dickerson’s firm, DSD Publicity Consulting, to kick off the Myriads effort and salute general diversity in the entertainment industry. Both Oscar nominees and non-nominated talent will be invited.
“Darren actually approached me about this idea before the nominations for the Oscars were announced,” said BPRS-LA President Shawn Turner, whose organization will also co-host the first Myriad Honors awards dinner in late summer.
“I was more than happy to lend our support and be involved as much as possible, then when Oscar nominations were announced it just made more sense that there’s a real need for an awards ceremony like this, to really celebrate diversity overall.”
BPRS members are excited about another chance to showcase their clients, Turner said, adding that outreach to publicists, talent managers and industry representatives has garnered further support.
Dickerson plans to spend the time following next month’s reception inviting entertainment journalists to join the Myriads voting body. They’ll initially vote for actors in various categories (lead and supporting male and female, ensemble, etc.) for movies, television, commercials and digital production.
Although foreign writers will be invited to join, the thing that will distinguish the Myriads from, say, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — which puts on the highly successful Golden Globe Awards — is that the Myriad group will be composed of at least 75 percent minority voters.
The Black Journalists Association of Southern California is the first to sign on, but Dickerson hopes to recruit Latino, Asian-American and other minorities, as well as white voters.
“We asked if the actors and talent and people behind them would take this seriously,” noted Xavier Higgs, president of BJASC and a contributor to the Pasadena Star-News. “Darren did his inquiries and said yes, because they know that we are professionals and there’s research behind what we do.
“I know the complaint is, ‘What, another award? How is this different from the others?’ ” Higgs said. “Well, the difference is that the majority of voting members are journalists of color. That’s what will make this different from the others. It’s more inclusive.”
While a show will have to depict diversity to qualify for the Myriads (or have a creatively sound reason for not doing so), Dickerson said that also means an African-American movie would need to show it as much as any mainstream Hollywood project. Additionally, voters will be encouraged to consider artistic merit first and foremost over any kind of politically correct thinking.
“If a Bradley Cooper is the best of the best and everyone votes for him, then he would win flat out,” Dickerson said. “But what this does is create more opportunity for minority inclusion without any exclusion at all.”
He hopes such all-inclusive diversity will give the Myriad Honors wider popular appeal than the more ethnically narrow NAACP Image Awards or American Latino Media Arts Awards (ALMA). Of course, those more seasoned ceremonies have broadcast or cable network deals, while the nascent Myriads do not — yet.
The commitments from BPRS-LA and BJASC did help Dickerson seal a live-streaming deal for the awards dinner with Platinum League, an online technology company known for its eponymous series of hip-hop artist trading cards. He hopes that will take place the week of the Emmys in September.
“We would offer our platforms to give him live-stream, 24-hour access globally,” said Platinum League’s director of communications and operations, Rico Cheatham. “That would be the basis of our partnership. And for Darren, we’d bring advertisers in if need be, and sponsors as well.”
As more people both in and outside Hollywood become aware of the new ceremony, Dickerson envisions a future rainbow-colored Myriad Honors turnout that networks will be clamoring to cover.
“What if I can put Denzel Washington, Padma Lakshmi from ‘Top Chef,’ Lucy Liu or Jackie Chan on a red carpet and throw in a Blake Lively?” he asked. “I could deliver an audience that would rival Super Bowl.”
By Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News | 1/21/2015