Producer credit debate heats up again

Who or what makes a producer was once again a heated issue when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ board of governors convened to flesh out the 74th annual Oscar rule book.

The debate over which film producers, and how many, can mount the stage on Oscar night to accept best pic gold — a topic first addressed by the Acad in 1999 when best pic winner “Shakespeare in Love” claimed five producers — was re-evaluated last Tuesday.

The board further tightened the restrictions: Unless they fully functioned as producers on the pictures, studio execs and personal managers with producer credit are ineligible for best picture noms and statuettes.

Rule — which, like most of the revised regs, functions mainly on an honor system — is an expansion of the already enforced “three-producer limit” on any one contending film. In addition, the Acad will maintain the rule that each of the winners must have been credited simply as producer, with no executive producers or associate producers on hand.

This year’s rules also address stipulations increasingly included in the employment contracts of all Oscar-eligible personnel involved in films. The Acad will nominate only the person it deems principally responsible for the work — not just anyone seemingly entitled by the wording of a contract.

The new eligibility rule for all categories reads: “The Academy shall not be bound by any contract or agreement relating to the sharing or giving of credit and reserves the right to make its own determination of credit for purposes of award consideration.”

In an Acad-issued statement Friday, executive director Bruce Davis said, “The Academy makes the ultimate determination of who its nominees are.”

The board has also approved final rules for the Acad’s frosh animated feature film Oscar, which will be awarded as long as eight toon releases are found eligible by year’s end. Due to the recent boffo run of “Shrek,” the promise of “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Osmosis Jones,” and the releases of “Atlantis: the Lost Empire,” and “Recess: School’s Out,” among others, the Acad is optimistic that the animated Oscar will indeed make its debut in March.

Should there be an animation award, the statuette will be presented to “the key creative talent most clearly responsible for the overall achievement,” normally a single individual, on behalf of the entire production. In no case will more than two statuettes be presented.

In addition, the Acad’s short films and feature animation branch will have the right to resolve all questions of eligibility, rules interpretation and the designation of award recipients.

The Academy also introduced the following rule changes:

  • In addition to the traditional film formats, exhibition by a nonvideotape digital process also will qualify a motion picture for Academy Award consideration.

  • A second set decorator may in some instances be eligible for award consideration.

  • Documentary short subjects may also qualify for awards consideration by winning a best docu short award from one of nine designated film fests.

The official rule booklet will be ready for distribution to Academy members during the first week of August.

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