The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson and directed by Jodie Foster, has not been nominated for any Oscars, or indeed any of the other major American film awards.
So, you definitely wouldn't expect to see screener copies being sent out now, after all of the slots have already been filled with other pictures. But that's exactly what Foster has decided to do, herself, at her own expense. This week, a copy of the film is going to be sent to all members of the Academy, complete with a letter from Ms. Foster explaining her reasoning.
The film was distributed by Summit who decided, at the start of this awards season, to not send out screener copies of this particular picture - though they did mail out 50/50 and A Better Life, both of which have now been nominated by the Academy.
I don't know the data on what sort of impact it is that screeners really have, year in, year out, but Summit's move can definitely be read as a vote of no confidence, in any case.
Though, forget the awards. Even though Jodie Foster's mailing list is comprised of the members of the Academy, she's making it very clear that this is not about prizes. From her letter:
It is unusual to get a screener after the Oscar nominations have been announced, as the final chapter of award season is nearing, when nearly all of this year?s movies have been viewed and assessed. That is because this screener of The Beaver is not ?For Your Consideration?. It is simply for your enjoyment...Deadline spoke to Foster, who reiterated her desire to simply have the film seen by her peers. They also reproduced her letter in full, and you can also read it at the bottom of this post.
...it was too sad for me to watch something I love this deeply disappear without being seen by my own community.
While I did like The Beaver, I was also very disappointed in it. I had read the screenplay when it was first doing the rounds a few years back, and had really fallen in love with what writer Kyle Killen created on the page. I think I can say that it was not translated perfectly to the screen, but I do still remember the excitement I had from reading the screenplay, totally cold and fully unprepared.
I respect Foster's decision to put her own film in the spotlight. Perhaps I would have acted the same, in her position. If I were in charge of the awards campaign at Summit, however, I'm more likely to have echoed their decision and not issued screener discs.
But there's definitely something I would have done instead: a copy of the script for every member of the Academy, nicely bound and delivered early in the season.