Oscar Rules!

So it turns out you CAN kick the old white men out! (Actually the irrelevant ones will just be stripped of voting privileges.) In order to understand these newest changes, I have been all over the http://www.oscars.org site reading about the rules of the club, which I have compared to a Lodge.

The beginning of "Who are you wearing?" Fred and Barney's sartorial choices.

The beginning of “Who are you wearing?” Fred and Barney’s sartorial choices.

 

Here are the Oscars by the numbers.  There are around 6,000 members, and as we have heard, an overwhelming majority are old white men.

http://www.oscars.org/oscars/statuette

Since the initial awards banquet on May 16, 1929, in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room, 2,947 statuettes have been presented.

There can be multiple winners in a category (example: cowriters Ben and Matt; visual arts teams), so in a little less than 90 years, a little less than 3000 Oscar statuettes have been given out.  All the original members have died by now, and they basically just anointed themselves and their Academy in the first place. 

http://www.oscars.org/oscars/statuette

Shortly after the formation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927, the fledgling organization held a dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to set out its goals. Among the topics discussed that night was how best to honor outstanding moviemaking achievements and thereby encourage excellence in all facets of motion picture production.

 

If we assume one is at least 20 or more likely 30 when they get in the Academy, over the last 50 years, how many current members were nominees/winners and how many are sponsored, like the Lodge?

My dad was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Karnak Shrine in Montreal, and the Royal Order of Jesters.  He had a fez like this.

My dad was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Karnak Shrine in Montreal, and the Royal Order of Jesters. He had a fez like this.

 

How do people get nominated to get in?  The rules are really quite simple, it’s all about submitting a film that fits the parameters:

  • length, technical quality/format and
  • plays in LA for seven consecutive days (some exceptions and/or modifications to the rules for Animated Feature, Documentary, Foreign Language, Music, and Short Film, but still all rules are explained clearly)
  • to a paying audience in the normal way,
  • within the calendar year,
  • and not already on TV, DVD, cable, or the Internet. 

More than anything, you have to enter if you want to win.  

hollywoodstar

The members do not nominate out of the blue, they have a list of possible nominees among those submitted.  To illustrate how the votes may spread out in some categories –  I counted 113 submissions by composers for Original Score, and Original Song has 74, whereas the short list for Makeup and Hair has only 7 films on it.  Some of the final nominees may have edged out a large field by only a thin margin of votes. 

http://oscar.go.com/news/oscar-news/oscars-2016-nominee-contenders-and-categories

Oscars 2016 Nomination Contenders and Categories: In addition, 305 feature films are still in the running for Best Picture nominations.

There are also multiple award winners (usually producers, and design/sound categories) to skew the stats further.  These Special Awards get statuettes;

  • Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
  • Honorary Award
  • Special Achievement Award
  • Gordon E. Sawyer Award
  • (Science and Technical) Academy Award of Merit
First Irving G. Thalberg Award

First Irving G. Thalberg Award

But not all Special Awards are given every year and not all get statuettes (other Special Awardees get plaques, medallions, certificates, or a Thalberg Head).

Seventeen Branches of AMPAS

Seventeen Branches of AMPAS

This year there are 24 categories getting awards over 14 of the 17 branches (more on the other three later).  A 25th category is still eligible (Musical) but rarely has enough competition to warrant an award.  The other two Music categories and Animated Feature could similarly be pulled for the same reasons.

  • 4 Acting Awards
  • 1 Cinematographer
  • 1 Costume Designer
  • 1 Designer (Production Design/Set Decorator)
  • 2 Directors, incl Best Foreign going to its director
  • 2 Documentary Feature and Documentary Short
  • 1 Film Editor
  • 1 Makeup Artist and Hairstylist
  • 2 Music (score, song)
  • 1 Producer (Best Picture)
  • 3 Short Films (Live Action, Animation) and Feature Animation 
  • 2 Sound (editing, mixing)
  • 1 Visual Effects
  • 2 Writers (adapted, original)
Manufacturing Time: 3–4 weeks for 50 statuettes. Fact from http://www.oscars.org/oscars/statuette

Manufacturing Time: 3–4 weeks for 50 statuettes. Fact from http://www.oscars.org/oscars/statuette

If 25 statuettes are given out multiplied by 5 nominees in each category (=125) less at least 25 nominees that are already members.  Then the Academy could potentially get 100 new members this year simply the old-fashioned way by being nominated . Maybe more, as noted, 50 can be ordered at a time.  They are engraved backstage AFTER a win.  The rest get stored for future use. 

Composer John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars) has had 50 nominations since 1967, and he is nominated again this year for The Force Awakens.

Composer John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars) has had 50 nominations since 1967, and he is nominated again this year for The Force Awakens.

I doubt they have received a full 100 freshmen every year, because members are more likely to submit in the first place.   So even at 50 new nominees a year for the last 50 years – there may still be 1000 to 3500 members of the Academy that entered via sponsorship.  I never thought about the math before.  It gets explained fairly quickly once we realize three full branches of the Academy are not even eligible for awards.

the-board-reviews-its-effectiveness

They have elections for their Board of Governors – 3 from each of the 17 Branches (=51). Seven of the 8 Officers (President/4 Vice-Presidents/Treasurer/Secretary) are Governors from 7 different Branches, and the CEO is listed like an outside hire because I can’t find her Branch listed.  Three year terms, maximum 3 terms.

http://www.oscars.org/about/board-of-governors

CEO Dawn Hudson oversees a staff of more than 300 who conduct the Academy’s day-to-day business.

Prior to becoming the Academy’s CEO in 2011, Ms. Hudson spent 20 years at the helm of Film Independent, which grew from a small non-profit into a nationally recognized arts institution under her leadership.

They make almost $100 million dollars for us to watch their private club party.

They make almost $100 million dollars for us to watch their private club party.

http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-80114572/

In her position, Hudson oversees the day-to-day operations of the academy, an organization that had $180.1 million in revenue in 2013, more than 50% of which (or $93.7 million) came from its Oscar telecast.

oscar-statuette

On the Board of Governors there are currently 9 people out of 42 (3×14 from competitive Branches) that must have been sponsored in.  (All the other Governors in such Branches have their nominations or wins listed.)  John Bailey is also an Officer (one of the Vice Presidents).  Only one branch (Cinematography) has 2 sponsored (vs nominated) Governors.

One can only imagine that their peers in their Branches are the best judges of whether or not they should have been sponsored in.  Since the members see more submitted films than the five that are nominated (in order to whittle it down to the 5), some of these people may have been in perennial sixth place, and the members know they have always been in the running.

  • KATE AMEND, DOCUMENTARY BRANCH is the editor of the Oscar-winning documentaries “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport” and “The Long Way Home.” Her recent credits include “The Case against 8,” “First Position” and “Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.”
  • JOHN BAILEY, CINEMATOGRAPHERS BRANCH ’s cinematography credits include “The Way, Way Back,” “Country Strong” and “He’s Just Not That into You.”
  • DARYN OKADA, CINEMATOGRAPHERS BRANCH ’s cinematography credits include “Let’s Be Cops,” “Dolphin Tale 2,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Mean Girls” and “Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.”
ST. ELSEWHERE -: (back row l-r) Ed Begley Jr. as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, David Morse as Dr. Jack 'Boomer' Morrison, Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus, Mark Harmon as Dr. Robert 'Bobby' Caldwell (front row) Denzel Washington as Dr. Phillip Chandler, Stephen Furst as Dr. Elliot Axelrod, Sagan Lewis as Dr. Jacqueline Wade -- Photo by: Ron Tom/NBCU Photo Bank

ST. ELSEWHERE -: (back row l-r) Ed Begley Jr. as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, David Morse as Dr. Jack ‘Boomer’ Morrison, Howie Mandel as Dr. Wayne Fiscus, Mark Harmon as Dr. Robert ‘Bobby’ Caldwell (front row) Denzel Washington as Dr. Phillip Chandler, Stephen Furst as Dr. Elliot Axelrod, Sagan Lewis as Dr. Jacqueline Wade — Photo by: Ron Tom/NBCU Photo Bank

  • ED BEGLEY JR., ACTORS BRANCH ’s film acting credits include “A Mighty Wind” and “Pineapple Express.”
  • CURT R. BEHLMER, SOUND BRANCH, senior vice president of content solutions and industry relations at Dolby Laboratories, is a recipient of the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation for his outstanding service to the Academy.
  • CHARLES BERNSTEIN, MUSIC BRANCH ’s credits include “Inglourious Basterds,” “Refusenik” and “Monster-in-Law.”
Uplifting and influential.

Uplifting and influential.

  • KATHRYN L. BLONDELL, MAKEUP ARTISTS AND HAIRSTYLISTS BRANCH has served as hairstylist on such films as “Django Unchained,” “J. Edgar,” “Revolutionary Road,” “Blood Diamond,” “Shampoo” and “Harold and Maude.”
  • BILL TAYLOR, VISUAL EFFECTS BRANCH has contributed to the visual effects of more than 200 features, including “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Public Enemies,” “Milk” and “The Fast and the Furious.” He is a founder and honorary life member of the Visual Effects Society as well as the 2012 recipient of the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation.
  • MICHAEL TRONICK, FILM EDITORS BRANCH ’s film editing credits include “Scent of a Woman,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Hairspray,” “The Green Hornet” and “2 Guns.”

oscar-statue

So back to the Branches: 3 of the 17 Branches are not competitive.  It must have been decided that Executives, Public Relations People, and Casting Agents are integral, and should be sponsored into the Academy.  These are the people that choose and green-light and promote the films and cast and crew in the first place.  They are not the vaunted Artists and Scientists of Motion Pictures that I think make the films the works of art (and science) that they are.  These are the money people.  If you think about it, they are the most responsible for the lack of diversity in film in the first place.

AMPAS logo prior to 2014

AMPAS logo prior to 2014

Since they are all sponsored, here is the list of the 9 (3 for each Branch) sponsored Governors from the non-competitive (ie. business) Branches.  The President is Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and Jim Gianopulos is also an Officer (Treasurer).

  • DANIEL R. FELLMAN, EXECUTIVES BRANCH is the president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. In his career, he has overseen the theatrical releases of eight “Harry Potter” films, the “Dark Knight” trilogy, the “Matrix” trilogy, the “Superman” films, “Happy Feet,” “Gravity,” “The Lego Movie,” and Best Picture winners “Chariots of Fire,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Departed” and “Argo.”
  • JIM GIANOPULOS, EXECUTIVES BRANCH is the chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox, overseeing film production, marketing and distribution of content in all media. He also works with emerging technologies and represents the studio in industry matters and key charitable efforts.
  • AMY PASCAL, EXECUTIVES BRANCH runs Pascal Pictures, where she serves as producer on several upcoming projects including Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” and Marvel’s “Spider-Man.” Prior to forming the company, she served as Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • CHERYL BOONE ISAACS, PUBLIC RELATIONS BRANCH  is a public relations executive and the former head of publicity at Paramount Pictures. She also served as president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema.
  • MARVIN LEVY, PUBLIC RELATIONS BRANCH  is an executive vice president at DreamWorks Studios, where he oversees the creation and execution of film marketing strategies. Prior to DreamWorks, Mr. Levy worked at MGM, Cinerama Releasing and Columbia Pictures, and also headed his own company.
  • NANCY UTLEY, PUBLIC RELATIONS BRANCH is co-president of Fox Searchlight Pictures, where she jointly manages all aspects of the company, including production, acquisitions, marketing and distribution.
  • LORA KENNEDY, CASTING DIRECTORS BRANCH has worked as a casting director for more than 25 years, on such features as “Soapdish,” “Tombstone,” “Argo” and “Man of Steel.” She is the 2012 recipient of the Casting Society of America’s Hoyt Bowers Award for outstanding contribution to the casting profession.
  • DAVID RUBIN, CASTING DIRECTORS BRANCH ’s career as a casting director spans three decades and more than 70 motion pictures, including “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The English Patient,” “Men in Black” and “Lars and the Real Girl.” In 2002 he received the Casting Society of America’s Hoyt Bowers Award for outstanding contribution to the casting profession.
  • BERNARD TELSEY, CASTING DIRECTORS BRANCH has been a casting director for film, stage, and television for over 25 years. Feature credits include “Ricki and the Flash,” “The Intern,” “Into the Woods,” “Focus,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “Margin Call,” “Across the Universe,” and “Pieces of April.” He serves as the New York Vice-President of Casting Society of America.

HollywoodSign

How is it changing?  It’s brilliant really, these 52 people making up the CEO and Board of Governors voted that members who came in via nomination/win have voting privileges for life (that was always my original understanding of membership, after the self appointed original guys died off), and others get reapproved for a decade if they are still in the business.  Three decades in a row, you get your vote for life. 

The Executives, PR people and Casting Agents have to stay in the business to be able to vote.  Anyone sponsored who has fallen out of the business loses it.  They are pledging to sponsor more people from deep untapped pools of talent – who will also have to stay in the business to stay relevant – and increasing the membership thusly.  The 3 “moneyed” Branches may finally be motivated to get diverse movies made, if from nothing else than being publicly shamed. 

Diversity in art is great for the audience, and the odd notion of competing arts is hollow if they are all the same anyhow. It is a win-win for them, for us, for the Arts and Sciences of Motion Pictures.

'Face it, Al, there's no business like show business for you anymore.'

This way it is closer to the ideal I always cherished: That Motion Picture Artists and Scientists will be voting for their peers.  I still think, especially for the non-performance categories, that is very special.

AMPAS new logo since December 2013

AMPAS new logo since December 2013

 

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