To “reduce the hype factor,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has revised its rules on Oscar promotions, banning review quotes and phone solicitations, and offering stricter definition about the distribution of music and screenplays to its members for award consideration.

A letter received Monday by studio and indie publicists outlined seven guidelines and a preamble about the gestalt of the campaign rules for the 1998 event.

“It’s no different than any other year. Following the Oscar season, the officers of the board do a post-mortem and recommend changes to the entire board,” AMPAS executive administrator Ric Robertson said. “Last year, the perception was that certain tactics had an unfair impact. We’re always trying to reduce the hype factor in areas we control.”

Leveling the field

The preamble to the guidelines states that its prime goal is “to restrict mailings and other activities to those things that will actually assist the members in their efforts to assess the artistic and technical merits of a film. A second aim is to allow all eligible films to be considered on as level a playing field as possible.”

The majority of items clarify areas addressed in prior years. Recordings and sheet music can now only be sent to music branch members during the nomination period. The new mailing also spells out that the material must be identical to what is heard in the film and bars the inclusion of “bonus” songs.

Similarly, screenplays can only be sent out following the announcement of nominees. Nothing may be attached to the script, such as review quotes or promotional materials.

No ‘making of’ vids

Videocassettes sent to members must be of the film: Intros and “making of” material are not kosher, the letter says, and while the box can reproduce film ad art, it cannot contain review quotes or mention of festival prizes or year-end critic citations.

The guidelines also state that screening schedules to members are restricted to a letter format and should not be on glossy or card stock. Film title art can be used, but again, quotes, citations, etc., are not acceptable.

Receptions and dinners have been banned. Additionally, “Any organized effort to contact Academy members by telephone on behalf of a film or achievement is expressly forbidden, even if such contact is in the guise of checking to make sure a videotape was received.”

Robertson said the telephone issue had not cropped up in the past. He was not aware of it until it was raised in media coverage of the 1997 Oscars. Miramax and Fine Line were singled out last year for subtle and overt pressure to get Acad members to see several “worthy” titles.

The traditional penalty for any Academy infractions is to take away ticket allocations to the Oscars. The letter states that serious violations could result in a film losing its eligibility.

“I don’t agree with everything in the guidelines, but I applaud the Academy for laying things out pretty clearly,” publicist Tony Angellotti said. “Let’s see how it works. Everything’s mutable, and these issues will be revisited and amended next year.”

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