Oscar’s new producer is first femme to solo

Ziskin to bring 'new energy for the show' sez Pierson

Laura Ziskin will produce the 74th annual Academy Awards, the first woman to take on solo producing reins for the show.

The announcement will be made at a news conference today at Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences headquarters. The 74th Oscarcast will be held on March 24, the first such show at the Kodak Theater in the new Hollywood-Highland Ave. complex.

Late Wednesday, newly elected Academy president Frank Pierson told Daily Variety about Ziskin: “She will create new energy for the show. And she has great respect for the Academy and for the show this represents.”

Ziskin has worked as a writer, director, producer and studio executive; she was president of Fox 2000. As an indie producer, she recently completed “Spider-Man” for her banner at Col to be released in May 2002.

She was exec producer on the 1997 TriStar pic “As Good As It Gets” and produced “To Die For.”

On TV, she has a deal at HBO, where she is readying to produce a film based on the life of the late Katharine Graham. She was exec producer on HBO’s “Dinner With Friends” and received the Saturn award for “Fail Safe.”

She and Pierson have known each other since “A Star Is Born,” starring Barbra Streisand, which he directed in 1976 at WB; she was Jon Peters’ assistant on the pic.

Ziskin is not the first femme producer of the Oscars: Lili Fini Zanuck, and husband Richard, produced the 72nd annual Academy Awards.

Also on Wednesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences further clamped down on its Oscar campaign guidelines.

It’s no longer an option to target Oscar voters with screenings of films where filmmakers and actors greet the audience and answer questions. In the new regs, the official season gets underway sooner than before, since cassettes and DVDs can be mailed out earlier. And the Acad is tightening screws on promotions, particularly via email and the Internet.

Every year for the past few years, the Acad has issued guidelines that fine-tune campaign regs. This year, there are no radical changes, but there are more rules than usual.

Following are some key changes:

  • While screenings are encouraged, “add-ons” such as receptions and Q&A with filmmakers are no longer permitted.

  • Key art is no longer allowed on screening schedules. Notices of upcoming unspoolings should be mailed to members in 8½-by-11-inch letter format (no photos or card stock). Graphics are limited to a logo, title, a pic synopsis and a basic “for your consideration” list of artists who worked on the film. These rules apply wherever graphics are addressed, including videotape and DVD packaging. In addition, invites may not extol the merits of a pic; letters containing quotes from reviews are not allowed.

  • A guideline regarding e-mail has been added, establishing the same restrictions that apply to traditional mail; item prohibits mention of or links to Web sites in e-mail or traditional mail.

  • The date for mailing DVDs and vidcassettes has been moved up: Now, Acad members can receive these any time after Nov. 1. And commercial packaging is no longer allowed for tapes or DVDs already in release to the homevideo market.

In addition, the Acad restated its rule against “elaborate or promotional packaging” for vids or DVDs. And the mail-outs can only include the film, no supplemental material such as “making of” documentaries.

In recent years, the Acad has issued restrictions in areas such as music, screenplays, telephone lobbying, events (receptions, dinners, etc.). All these remain intact.

Campaign restrictions have been imposed with two objectives, according to AMPAS executive administrator Ric Robertson.

In a preamble to the new regs, he writes, “The primary goal of these guidelines 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 secondary aim is to allow all eligible films to be considered on as level a playing field as possible.”

The 2001 guidebook, which warns that the penalty for violation has been tightened considerably, was mailed to studios and distributors last week.

In cases where violations occur, imposed penalties may include a cutback of up to half of a company’s allotment of tickets to the Oscars and the Governors’ Ball.

The highest form of punishment could result in a film losing its eligibility for awards consideration, should such serious violations involve solicitation of tickets.