THB Headline: Academy Membership Event Pt 3 - 5 slides and Little Commentary
I’m not against the international expansion at all… but it’s time for The Academy, which seems to want to continue to do this, to explain why it should continue to expand internationally and what the real goals are. Remember, the international expansion came as a result of complaints by non-whites in the American industry about inclusion. Unable to make a real impact on the statistics with domestic industry people of color, The Academy went international and took 4 years to admit as much.
The new CEO hinted at the idea that international was a growth opportunity for The Academy. If that is the case, it needs explaining, not just cheerleading.
Members-at-Large became a power play for the CEO under the previous administration. 607 members is a major branch now. Only Actors, Animation, and Executives have over 700 members.
And the “Associates” designation is bullshit and should be eliminated. Either you are a member for life or not. If not, there should be a set re-qualification rule that is objective and the same for everyone. The Academy won’t do that, as so many who have been added in the last 6 years would be turned into Associates as soon as they had to re-qualify.
COMMENTARY: They have hired TV producers… mostly the same TV producers… and that is fine.
Who is going to represent for “a love and reverence for film?”
”Solidify Theatrical Eligibility” is either a legitimate change in the rules or log rolling.
The idea of making the red carpet like the Met Gala or Cannes is beyond foolish. First, it is already bigger than either the Met Gala or Cannes, unless you are obsessed with Instagram view counts (I don’t know that either event is actually equal or bigger than Oscar by that measure.) Second, we all know this is the women’s/gay Super Bowl and that the red carpet glam is important… but at those other events, there is no show attached for the public. The story needs to be the Oscar show ahead of the red carpet. We already have multiple networks doing red carpet coverage live on the day. It’s not like the red carpet has been neglected. Yes, please, make a better pre-show than the horrors of the last few years. But the scale thing is a vestige of The Academy’s sad sack playing-from-behind mindset. Stop whining like you have lost!!!
What the hell does anyone think evolving the brand to reflect the changing industry or “the future of cinema?” Is this just an excuse for de-emphasizing theatrical? Because The Academy’s benign neglect of theatrical has damaged theatrical.
The last note - “Elevate and support first-run theatrical films.” - seems like The Academy has schizophrenia. How? How are you going to support theatrical films? Because letting streamers compete with theatrical films with all the upside and no downside with rules from before the existence of streaming is bullshit.
What does “strengthen relationships with press partners” mean? Sell the Oscars to the trades like HFPA did? I think AMPAS is actually impotent when it comes to managing the monopoly in the trade business right now. The reality is that “press partners” are unavoidable in this moment, but journalism partners should be emphasized over those who simply write whatever they are told by The Academy (or anyone else).
This is the most controversial area to discuss. The Inclusion Standards initiative is a terrible, terrible idea. I learned very young the difference between leading by example and leading by demand. This is a demand.
Moreover, the system that The Academy’s Inclusion Initiative is based on is not the awards-giving side of BAFTA, but the movie funding side. They fund movies. The Academy does not. If you are giving money to filmmakers, holding them to an inclusion standard is completely reasonable. A funder can use any judgement they like, though if anti-inclusion rules were set by any funder, they would appropriately be attacked mercilessly.
I wrote about this years ago when the initiative was announced. The rules are too loose to make a real impact. They can be gotten around for the cost of a trade cover ad. As CEO Bill said at the event, all 10 of last year’s Best Picture nominees would qualify. So why the hell do they need to make distributors list all of their non-white, LGBTQ+, and international employees like racists have done quietly for years to hold against the industry institutions? I don’t question the good intentions. It’s just a terrible mistake… an overreach… not in any way the fundamental significance of this organization.
The second slide in this section makes the point. The Godfather and Casablanca vs Boyz in the Hood and Josephine Baker. You don’t have to be a racist to see an imbalance in the significance in cinema history between the 2 pairings. I look forward to viewing the Regeneration: Black Cinema exhibit soon. I value it and the choice to do it. But the issues of how this industry failed in the support of people of color and the non-LGBTQ+ community do not, it seems to me, equal half of the history of this industry.
The Academy, as an awards player and as museum and as an industry leader to the slight degree it is, is right, in my opinion, to have some serious focus on inclusion and balance. But a greater priority, as it is the core of what The Academy is, is to prioritize fixing its own issues first.
I have written before about not wanting people to just write the whole thing off as a giant mess. So many people I know who are members and passionate about other things, keep saying this. I believe in The Academy as an idea. But a significant percentage of Academy members have just given up on having a voice within the organization, as there is such as strong, vocal, and judgemental wave of intention that only wants to hear about their priorities.
The truth is, The Academy is already miles ahead of The Industry in terms of inclusion and intention. It was even before the Aperture programs launched. But in the 7 years since, it is miles and miles out in front. And for many, that seems to be a signal to push harder, not to take the wins and refocus on greater impact elsewhere.
As noted in Part 2, this organization spends less than a third of its income on doing what it is there to do, aside from give an award. It spends a lot more on paying the staff. And the golden goose, The Oscars, is dying on the vine.
And now The Golden Globes are back as a private, for-profit whore house. Please, Academy, don’t follow the example. Aim higher.
I truly want to support and root for Bill Kramer as The Academy moves forward. And if he does even part of what he says he wants to do, I will be his biggest fan. (Well, not sure that’s possible… he’s very popular.) But these are scary times for awards, industry journalism, theatrical exhibition, and production (as in what will be produced and how much will be produced). The hole is deeper than most people realize.
I am an eternal romantic, harsh as I may read sometimes. I live in hope. And I hope I am not insane.