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Cinematographers Blast Academy Response on Oscar Telecast Exclusions

Cinematographers opposing the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations on the telecast have blasted the Academy’s latest attempt to assuage concerns about the move.

The group responded Thursday to officers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors, sending a letter Wednesday night to its membership, asserting that no award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners as “less than any others.” The AMPAS letter also blamed the controversy on “inaccurate” reporting and misinformation.

The cinematographers group said the AMPAS response was “unsatisfying and oddly inaccurate” and reiterated its request to reverse the decision.

The controversy exploded when AMPAS announced Monday that the portions of the awards for four categories — cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live action short – would be presented during commercial breaks and presented later in the live on-air broadcast in edited form. The reason for cutting parts of those presentations is to keep the telecast from going over three hours.

The AMPAS decision prompted a group of American Society of Cinematographers members to issue a blistering open letter Wednesday night seeking a reversal of the decision with Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Roger Deakins, Damien Chazelle, Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese and Emmanuel Lubezki signing on, among many others. The group said Thursday that AMPAS’ response flies in the face of the how the industry feels about the controversy.

“Since our Feb. 13 protest letter was sent to you yesterday evening, hundreds of cinematographers, directors, editors, producers, actors and those representing every other filmmaking discipline have added their names as signatories,” it said. “And this growing list is now being continuously updated on the ASC website with the names of new supporters. I urge you to view it, often. The steadfast support is there to change the decision you’d made because we are the people you represent. We are Academy members, we are filmmakers — the ones who conceive, create, present, and earn our living in the film industry and support the Academy.”

ASC President Kees van Oostrum told Variety on Thursday that he has requested an urgent meeting with Motion Picture Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. He plans to attend, along with cinematographers Emmanuel Lubezki, Rachel Morrison and Hoyt van Hoytema.

The board of governors would have to reconvene in order to reverse the decision.

Here is the new ASC letter:

Response of Cinematographers to the Academy’s Feb. 13

Angeles, Feb. 14

Dear Officers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,

Your response to our protest letter of Feb. 13 is unsatisfying and oddly inaccurate.

To state that “No award category at the 91st Oscars ceremony will be presented in a manner that depicts the achievements of its nominees and winners any less than others” is in direct conflict with the plan presented by you to Academy members this past Monday. The act of handing out certain awards during commercial breaks and then, at your discretion, airing this content, is most certainly depicting these categories in a lesser light than those being honored live in the spotlight on the main stage.

Regarding your concerns of “misinformation” and “inaccurate reporting”: Our protest letter of Feb. 13 was created by a small group of ASC members directly referencing a copy of President Bailey’s Feb. 11 letter, as well as the AMPAS Mission Statement.

There was simply no room for misinterpretation, misrepresentation or inaccuracy. And the media has reported well on this issue and should be commended for airing both sides equally.

The other concern is exactly how the Academy came to this decision. While you have stated that branch members were involved, and the Cinematography Branch “volunteered,” it seems that almost no one knew much about this nor were any of the members at large consulted or allowed to weigh in (vote) in advance of the decision.

Since our Feb. 13 protest letter was sent to you yesterday evening, hundreds of Cinematographers, Directors, Editors, Producers, Actors and those representing every other filmmaking discipline have added their names as signatories. And this growing list is now being continuously updated on the ASC website with the names of new supporters. I urge you to view it, often.

The steadfast support is there to change the decision you’d made because we are the people you represent. We are Academy members, we are filmmakers — the ones who conceive, create, present, and earn our living in the film industry and support the Academy.

It’s important for the Academy to understand how unprecedented and surprising this decision was. The Academy has done great things for the industry and its members and that is why the shockwave this created sparked such an emotional response. We love and respect this institution and are dedicated to its success.

The mission of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is to represent us and honor our achievements. Please reverse this decision, stand by the mission, and honor all filmmakers in the main broadcast, as the Academy has always done in the past.

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