Academy alters documentary rules

Films can screen for seven days in L.A., N.Y.

Feature-length documentarians have been given some slack under the rules that determine their films’ eligibility for Oscar.

In a change approved by the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in regards to the 81st annual Oscars, to given out in 2009 (eligibility period Sept. 1, 2007 through Aug. 31, 2008), filmmakers now must unspool their pics for seven days in Los Angeles County and Manhattan only. Previously, films had to be screened in 10 states on 14 screens.

“By eliminating the multicity rollout requirements, we have significantly simplified the Academy’s rules while still retaining the core intent to ensure that we honor nonfiction work created for theatrical distribution,” said director Michael Apted, chair of the Documentary Branch Executive Committee.

Also, filmmakers whose movies reach the semifinal round of voting will no longer be required to submit two film prints to the Acad. Now, submissions can be made on film or in a digital format, which can save the director both time and money.

“We need the copies early in the process because once the nominations are announced, we have only a couple of days before we start our membership screenings in L.A., the Bay Area and London,” said Academy exec director Bruce Davis.

For documentary shorts, previous eligibility required screenings in four cities over two consecutive days. Unspooling in L.A. or New York will now suffice.