The Player: Picker's role is to make Miramax a household name

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Movie media buying and planning is an art form to its practitioners-fast moving, ever changing, and definitely not off-the-shelf. During Oscar marketing season, innovation runs high at Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax Films.

"A lot of it is instinctive," said Caryn Picker, senior VP-media marketing at Miramax. "It's not like I have formal media training. We attribute our success to hours and hours of research."

The New York-based film company this season swept the Oscar nominations-earning 13 for "Chicago" and 10 for "Gangs of New York." Overall, Miramax grabbed 40 nominations this year, the most of any studio.

Most studios don't promote their brand names, except for two: Walt Disney, for kids and family films, and Miramax, for its arty boutique movies-names which are prominently displayed in advertising material.

"Over the years, one of the great achievements has been to brand our films through our media," she said.

Years ago Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein tried to define Ms. Picker's job in simple terms: "He told me `Your job is to know every TV show and what rating it does,"' she said. That was before an explosion of media outlets, and now TiVo, made TV media buying a more complex job.

"She's the best-creative, smart and tough," said Bill Morningstar, senior VP-media sales, AOL Time Warner's The WB. "She knows the product really well, and approaches it with guerilla marketing mentality to out-think the competition."

Mr. Weinstein agreed. "Her insight and instinct regarding media is impeccable."

Miramax's major marketing efforts center on the film awards season-which starts in December and culminates with the Academy Awards in March. Some years ago, Ms. Picker began an innovative move of buying half-hour program slots-essentially infomercials-featuring a behind-the-scenes look at its Oscar-bound movies on local Los Angeles and New York broadcast and cable outlets. The shows helped to garner Academy member votes, subsequent awards, and increased box office revenue for many movies.

fourth generation

Movies are in her genes-she is the fourth generation of Pickers in the movie business. Her father, David Picker, a veteran studio executive, was executive producer for four Steve Martin films. Ms. Picker began as an account executive in 1989 for EFK Media Marketing, New York, which then had the small Miramax account. In 1993, she joined the studio.

She helped market a string of films, many which won Oscar awards: "Pulp Fiction" (1994), "Il Postino," (1995), "The English Patient" (1996), "Good Will Hunting" (1997), "Life is Beautiful" (1998), and "Shakespeare in Love" (1998). In recent years her job has expanded to include mainstream movies such as the "Spy Kids," "Scream" and "Scary Movie" franchises under the Dimension Films brand.

Fast Facts

Name: Caryn Picker

Age: 40s ("It's really rude to ask a woman her age.")

Now: Senior VP-media marketing, Miramax Films

Challenge: Keeping up with TiVo.

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