Oscar campaigns: Acad aims to tame

Org believes actions 'threaten the integrity' of the award

Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences prez Frank Pierson has formed a committee to investigate Oscar campaign practices.

Though declining to name the members, Pierson told Daily Variety on Wednesday that it’s a small committee, repping members of the board of governors from various disciplines.

The exec first raised the issue at the Acad’s regular board meeting Tuesday night.

The campaign committee will confer with major players in the industry with the aim of “reducing the intensity of the campaigning. We all share the belief that it threatens the integrity of the Oscar,” Pierson said. “The implication is that the Oscar can be bought by an intense campaign.”

For example, Pierson said he’ll meet with Harvey Weinstein in New York next week. “I know Harvey, too, is concerned.” On Oscar night, the Miramax co-topper had expressed an eagerness to work with the Academy about rules of campaigning (Daily Variety, March 24).

The campaigns for the 75th annual Academy Awards resulted in unprecedented media scrutiny. Charges were hurled about excessive campaigning via Q&A seshes and ads in which Hollywood veterans touted nominees — despite Acad requests that voters not discuss their choices.

There also were a proliferation of parties “in honor of” various nominees, with Acad voters being invited to salute people they’d never met.

While all of these seem like obvious campaign ploys, the Acad and its committee will not have an easy time in effecting changes in the campaigning. There are considerations like First Amendment rights: You can’t instruct people not to have a party or not to speak out about their favorites.

While most Acad members are aware that an Oscar cannot be bought — this year’s ceremony alone saw many of the big spenders go home empty-handed — the public often equates excess with Oscar victory.

With an accelerated timetable for next year’s awards — Oscars will be held Feb. 29, a month earlier than usual — it’s clear that this is going to be an interesting campaign season. And, one month after the last ceremonies, people are already preparing.

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