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Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions.

“We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” said American Society of Cinematographers president Kees van Osstrom, who spearheaded the opposition.

“The honor offered by the Academy Awards is vital to validating the claim that everyone contributing to the making of a motion picture is an artist,” he added.

Van Oostrum and three other ASC members — Hoyte van Hoytema, Rachel Morrison and Emmanuel Lubezki — met Thursday night with Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy, and Academy president John Bailey to press their case. The controversy had 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 AMPAS decision to cut the presentations from the live telecast prompted a group of ASC 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 George Clooney signing on, among many others. AMPAS reversed the decision on Friday afternoon.

Here is the new ASC letter:

February 15, 2019
An Open Letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,

It is with great pride and respect that we write this letter commending the action of the Academy to reverse its decision and to move presentations of the Oscars for Cinematography, Live Action Short, Film Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling back into the main, live 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony broadcast.

It was clear to us from the outset that the original decision was difficult, making your current direction that much more brave. We feel the founding mission of the Academy — to honor its members and the film community — is far better served when it continues to promote motion pictures as the collaborative art form that it is.

In exploring this issue we have all been reminded of an important distinction: The Academy Awards cannot become just be another televised celebrity showcase. Our prestigious Academy has a higher purpose and must stand apart from other organizations by equally recognizing the most outstanding artists and craftspeople in all categories.

We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy.

When the American Society of Cinematographers was formed 100 years ago — in 1919 by our 15 founding members — a core part of their mission was to elevate cinematographers from being considered as mere “technicians.” They wanted to be recognized for the collaborative artistry they brought to every production. Even today, a century later, this struggle for recognition is shared by everyone working in every department. The honor offered by the Academy Awards is vital to validating the claim that everyone contributing to the making of a motion picture is an artist.

This is evidenced by the initial group of cinematographers who drafted our original letter of response to the Academy’s plans and the hundreds of filmmakers who signed it.

The ASC looks forward to working closely with the Academy in a joint effort to help make the annual Academy Awards the entertaining and prestigious show that we know it can be!

Sincerely,

Kees van Oostrum
ASC President