An Oscar wild card

Guest column

Talking recently with several Academy members about “Fahrenheit 9/11,” I realized there’s still some confusion about why the film isn’t eligible for a documentary Oscar this year. Here, once and for all, is an explanation.

The most basic reason is that it aired on television. Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rules disqualify a film from consideration for the documentary Oscar if the film airs on television anywhere in the world within nine months of its initial theatrical release.

The television broadcast of the film was not an inadvertent failure to heed the rules of the Academy. Rather, there was a conscious decision (one agonized over by the film’s distributors and, more importantly, by its producers and director) to air the film on television despite what was clearly being sacrificed in potential Academy recognition.

Michael Moore would have valued another documentary nomination. But he felt it was more important that the film be seen by as many people as possible prior to Nov. 2.

Michael also was considering all the other worthy documentary filmmakers this year who haven’t had a chance, as he has, to win an Oscar.

With Michael’s wishes in mind, we went to great lengths to arrange for a special one-time exhibition of “Fahrenheit 9/11” on the night before the election, when awareness of the film was at its peak. We planned a pay-per-view event that would have reached almost all homes in America (and some Americans living overseas). Of great importance to Michael was that he and the Weinsteins made a commitment to donate all of their share of revenue from these exhibitions to a charitable organization that assists the families of soldiers fighting in Iraq.

Unfortunately, some of the bigger services to which we licensed the film had other interests in mind when they backed out of their agreements. We are grateful that EchoStar, TVN and CinemaNow had the strength and integrity to offer the film for pay-per-view on the night before the election, but they accounted for only a small percentage of what we had originally planned.

Like mearly everyone who worked on the production or the distribution of the film, I had hoped that by exposing the film to a broad audience, we might increase awareness of important issues and encourage some change in U.S. policies. Irrespective of the outcome of last year’s elections, I take comfort in the fact that Michael Moore caused an entire nation to engage in discussion, regardless of political affiliation, about the current administration, its policies and their impact on individuals in America and throughout the world.

The box office success of “Fahrenheit 9/11” proves without question that this is a film that appealed to a broad segment of the American people.

Although my work for the Fellowship Adventure Group is basically over, I continue to encourage people to see this film. I’m proud of the enormous success we achieved in getting “Fahrenheit 9/11” in front of as large an audience as possible and I’m grateful to Michael Moore for the decisions he made in allowing that to happen.

Gunn was hired by Bob and Harvey Weinstein to oversee the release of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and manage the business of the Fellowship Adventure Group, the company they formed to release the film. He was formerly exec VP of Artisan Entertainment.