HOLLYWOOD — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has introduced an 11th Commandment.
The org’s annual roster of do’s and don’ts for Oscar campaigning contains 14 rules, with most of them confirming or refining previous guidelines. The one totally new item is No. 11, dealing with third-party distribution.
According to that reg, studios “are prohibited from using subscriber-based publications to distribute promotional materials to Academy members who are not subscribers to those publications.”
In other words, a studio can insert a promotional item — a book, a DVD, etc. — to be distributed with an issue of Daily Variety, for example. However, that item can only be sent to regular subscribers — not to the usual readers plus Academy members who are not subscribers.
Academy prez Frank Pierson said that, in general, “These are not new guidelines; they’ve been same for several years now. But we publish them every year to remind people they’re there. There’s considerable turnover at the studios and we need to educate them every year that the guidelines exist.”
Goal is level playing field
The goal, Pierson said, “is to have as level a playing field as we can possibly have.” Each campaign season, somebody tries to “outwit” the guidelines, he said, but in general, Oscar campaigners respect the rules and even like them. “People do not want to see the process corrupted; they don’t want to see the little guy get swamped by the big guys. People don’t like to see others bend the rules.”
Aside from No. 11, the other 13 points generally confirm previous regs. For example, the Academy reminds that cassettes or DVDs can be sent out as of Nov. 1, a date that went into effect last year (two weeks earlier than the previous date). The Acad also reminds that a studio can send out a DVD or VHS copy, but not both, and that even if the title has already been released on video, the distrib cannot send out a copy of the film with any extras or with the commercial packaging that’s on the versions in video stores.
No free food
Lavish outlays of money for elaborate video packaging, etc., are not allowed. Similarly, screenings are encouraged, but the Acad nixes add-ons such as “receptions, buffets or other refreshments, nor should such screenings feature the live participation of the film’s artists before or after the screening.”
The rules are monitored by Acad exec administrator Ric Robertson.
By ignoring or breaking the rules, a studio can be penalized. According to a preamble to this year’s list, “in most cases, the penalty will consist of a significant subtraction from a company’s standard allotment of tickets to the awards presentation.” More serious violations could result in a film losing its Oscar eligibility.
The Oscar nominations will be unveiled Feb. 11; awards will be handed out March 23.