Academy Defends Oscar Changes After Filmmakers’ Open Letter, Addresses “Chain Of Misinformation”

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by Anita Bennett and Erik Pedersen  –  Deadline Hollywood

Shortly after nearly 100 high-profile cinematographers and directors including Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese sent an open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expressing reservations about the decision to move four awards to commercial breaks, the Academy released a statement addressing their concerns.

“As the Academy’s officers, we’d like to assure you that no award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners as less than any others,” said the Academy statement released Wednesday night. “Unfortunately, as the result of inaccurate reporting and social media posts, there has been a chain of misinformation that has understandably upset many Academy members. We’d like to restate and explain the plans for presenting the awards, as endorsed by the Academy’s Board of Governors.”

The letter, signed top AMPAS brass, went on to lay out a series of explanations, with the Academy saying, “We’d like to restate and explain the plans for presenting the awards, as endorsed by the Academy’s Board of Governors.”

  • All 24 Award categories are presented on stage in the Dolby Theatre, and included in the broadcast.
  • Four categories – Cinematography, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Live Action Short – were volunteered by their branches to have their nominees and winners announced by presenters, and included later in the broadcast. Time spent walking to the stage and off, will be edited out.
  • The four winning speeches will be included in the broadcast.
  • In future years, four to six different categories may be selected for rotation, in collaboration with the show producers. This year’s categories will be exempted in 2020.
  • This change in the show was discussed and agreed to by the Board of Governors in August, with the full support of the branch executive committees. Such decisions are fully deliberated.

Our show producers have given great consideration to both Oscar tradition and our broad global audience.

We sincerely believe you will be pleased with the show, and look forward to celebrating a great year in movies with all Academy members and with the rest of the world.

John Bailey, President
Lois Burwell, First Vice President
Sid Ganis, Vice President
Larry Karaszewski, Vice President
Nancy Utley, Vice President
Jim Gianopulos, Treasurer
David Rubin, Secretary

On Monday, the Academy announced that the winners in the best cinematography, best editing, best hair & makeup, and best live action short would be announced during commercial breaks. The American Society of Cinematographers weighed in the next day, with its president Kees van Oostrum saying, “After receiving many comments on this matter from ASC members, I think I speak for many of them in declaring this a most unfortunate decision.”

In an open letter obtained by Deadline on Wednesday, about 40 industry insiders urged the Academy to rethink the decision in an open letter to AMPAS president John Bailey.

“Since its inception, the Academy Awards telecast has been altered over time to keep the format fresh, but never by sacrificing the integrity of the Academy’s original mission,” the letter said. “When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the Academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form.”

Here is the filmmakers’ open letter in its entirety:

An Open Letter to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Producers of the 91st Annual Academy Awards Broadcast:

On Monday, February 11, 2019, John Bailey, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, announced that this year’s Oscar presentations for Best Cinematography — along with Film Editing, Live Action Short and Makeup and Hairstyling — will not be broadcast live, but rather presented during a commercial break. This decision was made to reduce the length of the show from four hours to three. The vocal response from our peers and the immediate backlash from industry leaders over the Academy’s decision makes it clear that it’s not too late to have this decision reversed.

The Academy was founded in 1927 to recognize and uphold excellence in the cinematic arts, inspire imagination and help connect the world through the universal medium of motion pictures. Unfortunately, we have drifted from this mission in our pursuit of presenting entertainment rather than in presenting a celebration of our art form and the people behind it.

Relegating these essential cinematic crafts to lesser status in this 91 st Academy Awards ceremony is nothing less than an insult to those of us who have devoted our lives and passions to our chosen profession.

The show’s director, Glenn Weiss, has stated that he will determine what “emotionally resonant” moments from the four winners’ speeches will be selected to air later in the broadcast. The show will cut any additional comment from presenters, as well as any recitation of the nominees as they see fit.

Since its inception, the Academy Awards telecast has been altered over time to keep the format fresh, but never by sacrificing the integrity of the Academy’s original mission. When the recognition of those responsible for the creation of outstanding cinema is being diminished by the very institution whose purpose it is to protect it, then we are no longer upholding the spirit of the Academy’s promise to celebrate film as a collaborative art form. To quote our colleague Seth Rogan, “What better way to celebrate achievements in film than to NOT publicly honor the people whose job it is to literally film things.”

Signed,

Cinematographers
Dion Beebe
Bill Bennett
Roger Deakins
Peter Deming
Caleb Deschanel
Robert Elswit
Mauro Fiore
Greig Fraser
Janusz Kaminski
Ellen Kuras
Ed Lachman
Robert Legato
Emmanuel Lubezki
Anthony Dod Mantle
Seamus McGarvey
Chris Menges
Dan Mindel
Reed Morano
Rachel Morrison
Guillermo Navarro
Phedon Papamichael
Wally Pfister
Rodrigo Prieto
Robert Primes
Robert Richardson
Linus Sandgren
John Seale
Newton Thomas Sigel
Vittorio Storaro
John Toll
Hoyte van Hoytema
Kees van Oostrum
Roy Wagner

Directors
Damien Chazelle
Cary Joji Fukunaga
Spike Jonze
Ang Lee
Spike Lee
Dee Rees
Seth Rogan
Martin Scorsese
Quentin Tarantino

Filmmakers
Kym Barrett
Judy Becker
Alan Edward Bell
Erin Benach
Avril Beukes
Consolata Boyle
Maryann Brandon
Alexandra Byrne
Milena Canonero
Chris Corbould
Hank Corwin
Tom Cross
Nathan Crowley
Sophie De Rakoff
Chris Dickens
Bob Ducsay
Lou Eyrich
Dante Ferretti
Paul Franklin
Dana Glauberman
William Goldenberg
Affonso Goncalves
Adam Gough
Jon Gregory
Dorian Harris
Joanna Johnston
Paul Lambert
Mary Jo Markey
Joi McMillon
Ellen Mirojnick
Stephen Mirrione
Bob Murawski
John Ottman
Sandy Powell
Fred Raskin
Tatiana S. Riegel
Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Mayes Rubeo
Nat Sanders
J.D. Schwalm
Anna B. Sheppard
Terilyn A. Shropshire
Joan Sobel
Michael Tronick
Mark Ulano
Martin Walsh
David Wasco
Billy Weber
Julie Weiss
Michael Wilkinson
Hughes Winborne
Janty Yates
Mary Zophres

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