The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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It's a dog-eat-dog world at 'My Dog Tulip' Oscar screenings

November 30, 2010 |  6:07 pm

Mydog_tulip You know it's really Oscar season when Variety suddenly starts looking plump with ads again and you could put on a few pounds yourself, noshing on all the rich finger food served at the dozens upon dozens of awards-season parties and screenings and Q&A sessions touting virtually every movie under the sun. If you're a big movie studio, no one bats an eye if you start running up bills for long (and I mean loooong) shot contenders like last February's "Shutter Island." 

But what do you do if you're "My Dog Tulip," a small-scale animated film that got lots of love from critics--scoring a 94 at Rotten Tomatoes--but was released by tiny New Yorker Films, an indie distributor without the deep pockets to run an Oscar ad campaign that could possibly compete with the millions being spent on Pixar's "Toy Story 3" or DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon"? The answer: Be creative.

Vivian Mayer, the veteran Hollywood publicist who's working on the "My Dog Tulip" campaign, went to a trusted source, her husband, Alan Siskind, whose digital media company publishes, a popular online dog magazine. One of the magazine's advertisers, Stella & Chewy's, who make all-natural dog products, saw themselves as a perfect fit with the "My Dog Tulip" audience, which is heavily weighted toward affluent families and college-educated women.

And before you knew it, "My Dog Tulip," which is based on a memoir by J.R. Ackerley about his relationship with his hand-me-down canine, had a corporate sponsor. Stella & Chewy's is bankrolling a series of bicoastal "My Dog Tulip" screenings geared toward doggedly promoting the animated feature with academy voters. The screenings, which begin Wednesday at the Clarity screening room in L.A., will be held over the next two weeks at theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. In return for footing the bill, Stella & Chewy's gets some free publicity via various media dog lovers (like us!) and through gift bags given out to everyone attending the screening.

"Being an independent, underdog film producer, like a small, independent pet food maker, isn't easy," says Stella & Chewy's founder Marie Moody, whose company is named after a pair of dogs she adopted at an L.A. animal shelter. "When you're running with the big dogs, you need all the help you can get. So we're doing our part to help 'Tulip' succeed against those major studio campaigns."

Sadly, dogs aren't allowed to attend the screenings--they'll have to stay home, watch the film on DVD and wait until that gift bag full of goodies arrives.  

Photo: J.R. Ackerley, left, voiced by Christopher Plummer, with Tulip in a scene from the film "My Dog Tulip." Credit: New Yorker Films