The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is shaking up its process for delivering promotional materials and screeners to the organization’s roughly 7,200 voting members, but it’s less a crack down on Oscar campaigning than a long-requested leveling of the playing field.
For years awards consultants and Academy members have asked that the group adopt an approach similar to the Television Academy’s, whereby the organization maintains its own mailing list and exerts control over outreach to the membership via its own third-party mailing houses. But the film Academy had long adopted a certain laissez-faire attitude, preferring to have no hand whatsoever in the studios’ efforts in promoting films to members during the Oscar season.
Beginning this summer, however, distributors will no longer be allowed to ship “for your consideration” screeners, screening invitations, screenplays or other such awards season accoutrements directly to voters.
“As someone who’s managing an Academy list, and it’s a pain, this seems like a good thing,” one consultant said.
Nevertheless, it’s bad news for a certain cottage industry: Making money off one’s own list of Academy members. For a handful of consultants and publicists, it has been quite a lucrative practice to rent or outright sell their Rolodexes packed with the names and contact details of Oscar voters. In the midst of an awards campaign, where Oscar recognition can often be a fundamental part of a movie’s business strategy, that’s valuable information akin to the cherished Glengarry leads of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” — and not just for those pitching their wares for Academy consideration; media outlets have been rumored to purchase these lists for their purposes as well.
However, it’s good news for an Academy looking to raise funds for a variety of initiatives. The organization plans to take a fee for each use of its mailing service, though at the moment, that income is meant to solely cover operational costs. But that doesn’t mean it could not become a profit center in the future, as it has for the Television Academy.
Not everyone is convinced it’s going to be such an easy pivot. “We don’t know what the rates are going to be, but it’s certain to be more expensive across the board for everyone,” another consultant said. “Will it be less work? I don’t think so, because everyone is going to continue maintaining their lists. After all, what if the Academy decides to stop doing this in a few years?”
Ultimately the move is meant to provide a better user experience for AMPAS members, who are often hounded on multiple fronts about updating contact information. With an increasingly internationalized Academy, annually adding members who are scattered across the globe, centralizing a database will be a win all around — assuming, of course, that database is accurately maintained. There remained some concern over that aspect in conversations with strategists on Tuesday.
The new policy was approved by the Academy’s board of governors at the group’s Dec. 5 meeting and conveyed to publicists at a meeting held Jan. 30 at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters.