Studio heads to meet with Valenti again

Exex may be forced to find middle ground as protests continue

NEW YORK — The ongoing spiral of industry opposition to the Oscar screener ban showed no sign of stopping Tuesday.

In what will be the first joint meeting of studio chiefs since the ban was announced, the heads of the seven studios behind the screener veto have scheduled a conference call meeting Thursday with Jack Valenti, after the MPAA president returns from Ireland.

Given the tsunami of opposition to the ban from across almost every sector of the industry — studio specialty distributors and unaffiliated indie banners, directors and producers, actors and screenwriters, agents and managers, critics groups and Academy members — the studios may be forced to find a middle ground on the sensitive issue. However, anything more than a partial retreat seems unlikely at this point.

Meanwhile, the protests continue. Bi-coastal independent film body IFP, which has been a prime motivator in the opposition movement from the beginning, today published an ad in Daily Variety in which more than 350 industry figures call for the ban to be lifted.

Opposition expands

While previous reports indicated that the ad would group together exclusively actors against the MPAA move, the latest statement is signed by members from all sectors, asking in addition for all those affected by the ban to petition the MPAA, its seven member companies plus DreamWorks and New Line, to reverse the decision.

“The undersigned join IFP, the Writer’s Guild of America, AFMA, Bafta/LA, Bafta/EC, over 150 filmmakers; and virtually every member of the creative community urging the MPAA and the studios it represents to stop the ban on ‘for your consideration’ screeners, explore alternative solutions to curtailing piracy, and restore integrity to our business and the Academy Awards.”

In addition to names previously published as adherents to screener protests, thesps signing onto the latest missive include Bob Balaban, Jamie Bell, Adrien Brody, Glenn Close, Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Matt Dillon, Faye Dunaway, Jon Favreau, Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Brenda Fricker, Troy Garity, Sarah Michelle Geller, Ryan Gosling, Marcia Gay Harden, Samuel L. Jackson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, James Le Gros, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cameron Mitchell, Matthew Modine, Samantha Morton, Lena Olin, Kip Pardue, Rosie Perez, Oliver Platt, Sarah Polley, Parker Posey, Pete Postlethwaite, Keanu Reeves, Christina Ricci, Tim Roth, Mark Ruffalo, Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Liev Schreiber, Annabella Sciorra, Lili Taylor, John Turturro and Mare Winningham.

Along with previously cited names such as Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek and Ellen Burstyn, the majority of the actors involved have a history of working both on studio and independent projects. Their visibility at awards time would therefore be directly impacted by the screener ban.

East meets West

In an ongoing show of guild support, the Writers Guild of America, East on Tuesday added its voice to that of the org’s West Coast chapter to protest the MPAA and studio-backed edict.

“The East is where independent film was born and raised,” said WGA, East president Herb Sargent in a statement. “We must continue to nurture films that don’t necessarily fit into the big-budget studio mold. Screeners have proven successful in giving these films a fighting chance.”

The statement follows a similar protest Monday from WGA, West president Victoria Riskin, who charged that the screener ban will tilt the playing field of awards contenders from small films to large.

Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert also weighed in Monday with strongly worded comments against the MPAA ban, anticipating an official statement from the org after a board of directors meeting this weekend.

While the Directors Guild of America has not yet taken an official position, that org also is expected to voice its opposition in the coming days. A growing coalition of the world’s leading filmmakers last week published an open letter to Valenti, urging for the MPAA decision to be repealed.

Many of the names of those directors also are included in the IFP statement published today, along with new adherents, among them David Fincher, Frank Oz, Tom DiCillo, Nicole Holofcener, Edward James Olmos, Luis Mandoki, Mick Jackson, Kasi Lemmons, Ross McElwee, Ronald Neame, Alison Maclean and Rodrigo Garcia.

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