×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscar and Academy Grapple With a Series of 21st Century Curveballs

Be careful what you wish for.

For a long time, some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences worried that Oscars were becoming irrelevant, due to the glut of awards shows and declining ratings.

However, in the past few years, the Academy has often been at the center of worldwide debates about industry inclusion (e.g., #OscarsSoWhite) and harassment/bullying (#MeToo, #TimesUp). These movements will remain central to all Oscar conversations leading up to the March 4 ceremony.

Instead of being ignored, Oscar became a hot-button symbol. So be careful what you wish for.

Until the Oscarcast (and beyond), debates about nominees will focus on the Hollywood system — and on the Academy. For most of its 90-year history, the public wanted to know who won, but didn’t particularly care about who voted. That changed with the internet. Every Academy move has been under scrutiny.

As Academy president John Bailey and the AMPAS executives, board and members struggle with their newfound fame, give them a moment of sympathy. They’re dealing with questions that their predecessors didn’t have to grapple with.

Transparency
The Academy is basically an honor society. For most of its 90 years, AMPAS was also a private club. According to Variety archives, there were 3,529 voters in 1979 and 86% of them lived in California. It was a group for Hollywood insiders. Now, as membership expands, journalists want to know every detail about membership and about the board. It’s self-perpetuating: The more people talk about the inner workings of the Academy, the more questions are asked.

For example, the AMPAS board voted to create three governors-at-large, to expand membership significantly, to recruit voters who hadn’t requested membership, and so on. Some members protested they weren’t consulted. Privately, a few individuals shrug that government legislators make decisions every day without consulting constituents, so the moves are not unusual.

Like every other company in the digital age, AMPAS is trying to figure out a balance between “none of your business” and full disclosure. The Academy gives out news on a need-to-know basis and reporters speculate on the rest. And, to the distress of many members, a lot of this speculation is wildly wrong.
More info would cut down on the erroneous “reporting,” but is it worth it?

Goals: What is the Academy’s mandate?
In its push for diversity/inclusion, the Academy has said it wants to set an example for the industry. On Oct. 14, when ousting Harvey Weinstein, AMPAS said: “The board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.” Usually, hiring practices and unethical conduct are the responsibility of employers (i.e., studios and agencies, with help from the guilds). The Academy appointed itself as industry watchdog, issuing standards of conduct Jan. 27. Is this a good thing? Would membership polls and more town hall meetings be helpful, or just an invitation to gripe?

Non-Oscar stuff
The Academy has scholarships, mentoring programs, screenwriting contests, exhibits and more. But the big question is the museum, a full-time operation that requires huge manpower and money, not just for initial funding, but also for annual upkeep. Academy execs and members need to figure out how to make this happen without draining money and energy from the other programs.

For 90 years, the Academy wanted to be the symbol of Hollywood — the glamour, excitement and artistry. Now, the word “Hollywood” evokes questions about narrow thinking and scandalous behavior. The Academy is still a symbol and often blamed.

Be careful what you wish for.

More Film

  • Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack

    Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack on Agency Packaging

    The Writers Guild of America, which is threatening to require members to fire their agents, has posted a scathing video attacking how major agencies conduct packaging. Titled “Agency Conflicts of Interest,” the video explains that compensation for writers has declined by 23% between 2014 and 2016 and blames the agencies for taking packaging fees on [...]

  • CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist

    CAA Owner TPG Buying Payroll Specialist Entertainment Partners

    TPG Capital, the massive private equity firm that owns Creative Artists Agency, is buying payroll specialist Entertainment Partners for an undisclosed price. Entertainment Partners’ management team, led by president and CEO Mark Goldstein, will continue in their roles. The agreement was announced Tuesday with plans to close the deal during the second quarter. “We’re thrilled [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw 'Industry Into Chaos'

    UPDATE – The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7. “When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work [...]

  • Zoe Lister-Jones The Craft

    'The Craft' Remake Finds Director in Zoe-Lister Jones

    “Life in Pieces” star Zoe Lister-Jones will write and direct Sony Pictures’ remake of “The Craft” for Blumhouse and Red Wagon Entertainment. Doug Wick, the producer of the original “The Craft,” will return in the same capacity along with partner Lucy Fisher through their Red Wagon banner. Jason Blum is also producing and his Blumhouse [...]

  • Carol Burnett

    Carol Burnett's Mother-Daughter Story 'Carrie and Me' in Development as a Movie

    Carol Burnett’s bestseller “Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story” is in the works as a movie at Focus Features with Burnett, Tina Fey, Eric Gurian, and Steven Rogers producing. Burnett will produce through her Mabel Cat Productions with Fey and Gurian under their production banner Little Stranger along with Rogers (“I, Tonya”). The sibling [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Plans for Agency Pact Expiration: 'There Will Be Difficult Moments'

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement on April 7 — and admitted that it may be a rocky road. Members received the letter Tuesday from the guild’s negotiating committee as the WGA and agents were about the hold their seventh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content