The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences constantly updates the regulations for how distributors, talent and campaigners market movies to Academy voters. According to outgoing Academy President Tom Sherak (who isn’t seeking another term and will be replaced by the Governors later this summer) “these rules help us maintain a level playing field for all of the nominees and protect the integrity of the Awards process.”
Already, the Academy has launched a major change, allowing Q & As at their weekend Academy screenings. I attended one for “Men in Black 3” with makeup artist Rick Baker and VFX maestro Ken Ralston, which I enjoyed, but found it odd that the Academy was actively encouraging direct marketing to its members. The Academy pays various journalists such as Cari Beauchamp to conduct the interviews (which they are not supposed to turn into stories), but does not allow for questions from the members. I don’t get it.
During the pre-nominations phase of last year’s award season, the Academy allowed distributors to invite members to screenings that were introduced by filmmakers and/or cast, who also were able to chat with members over drinks and supper following the movie. Several Academy members have expressed discomfort to me about both of these changes, which are designed to lure increased participation from some 6000 Academy voters–a relatively small number attend the weekend and foreign screenings.
Marketers are adept at skirting these regulations by defining their screenings as involving all the guilds or a DVD release or some such semantic distinction. See the way the regulations are worded below:
After the announcement of nominations on January 15, 2013, and until the final polls close (February 19, 2013), Academy members may be invited to up to four screenings of a nominated film that are preceded or followed by filmmaker Q&As or other such participation. A fifth such event in the United Kingdom will be permitted. All participants must be nominated or have been eligible for nomination. No screening event may include a reception or otherwise offer complimentary food or beverages. These limitations do not apply to screenings held by the Academy, guilds or similar organizations.
The regulations also now stipulate that members may receive the film both on DVD and as a digital download.
Additionally, each week, members may be sent only one piece of mail and one email per film company. The rules maintain the prohibition on sending members links to websites that promote a film using audio, video, or other multimedia elements, but may include links to the videos in the “Academy Conversations” series on Oscars.org.
The Academy has augmented its existing ban on film companies using third parties to distribute materials that they would be prohibited from sending directly. The regulation now specifies that film companies may not have a publication use its subscriber lists to send stand alone materials to members, except in connection with the distribution of the publication itself. This amendment does not affect a company’s ability to place their usual promotional materials in trade publications.
Similarly, while guilds and other awards organizations may hold non-screening events after the nominations announcement, this rule now specifies that film companies may not use such occasions as opportunities to sponsor promotional events that would otherwise violate Academy regulations.