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Film Guilds Condemn Oscars for Not Airing Craft Wins Live

Composers, lyricists, set decorators, and more are urging the Academy to reverse its decision to withhold sound and seven other categories from the live broadcast.

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“Dune”

Warner Bros.

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Updated, March 1: The Set Decorators Society of America addressed this letter to top Academy brass on Monday.

“In a climate of great cultural and political division, the Academy has elected to demote eight branches from equal recognition at the Academy Awards: Production Design, Documentary Short, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Animated Short, Live Action Short, and Sound. The SDSA takes this as a tremendous blow to the ideal of equality among the Academy’s branches. The Oscar for Outstanding Production Design is presented to the Production Designer and Set Decorator.

“The diminution of these specific awards, which you declare to be “the fat in need of trimming” from the broadcast in order to make it more entertaining, is punitive not only to the individual artists singled out for this treatment, but to entire industries represented by each one, who take enormous pride in their part in the creation of each nominated and winning film in the Academy competition. We are all diminished by this action, and infuriated by it.

“The demotion of the Academy Award for Production Design in the eyes of the world and among our peers in the workplace is a material blow and an unnecessary one.

“The Academy has been the gold standard of fostering collaboration among the arts of filmmaking. But by this action you are sowing divisiveness: anyone looking at the list of those demoted to the prerecorded portion of the broadcast can only react with strong dismay at the lack of respect given to these art forms.

“The relegation of certain film crafts to a lesser tier feels like confirmation of a bias antithetical to the spirit traditionally honored by the Academy.

“One of the great events preceding the Awards Ceremony is the Oscars Luncheon, where the nominees are gathered in blended groups at their tables. Costume Designers sit side-by-side with Supporting Actor Nominees and Sound Mixers. A Set Decorator passes bread to a Director, who clinks glasses with a Special Effects Supervisor. And finally comes the class photo: all the nominees are called out one-by-one, and summoned to the dais, where they stand together in great equanimity and pride.

“This event sets a tone of generosity and fraternity that carries over to the Awards Ceremony. It is a glorious celebration of professional achievement and unity.

“It is this spirit that feels diminished by the recent announcement.

“The Set Decorators Society of America expresses its extreme disappointment with this decision. We hope a different avenue can be found to maintain the audience’s interest, and one which truly celebrates the art of filmmaking and holds to the true values of the Academy.”

Ariana DeBose as Anita and David Alvarez as Bernardo in 20th Century Studios' WEST SIDE STORY. Photo by Niko Tavernise. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“West Side Story”

Niko Tavernise

Updated, February 27: The Alliance for Women Film Composers has released a statement sharing disappointment in the Academy’s decision to cut eight of its categories from the live broadcast. See below:

“The Alliance for Women Film Composers is extremely disappointed at the exclusion of the score composers category and the seven other categories that highlight an inclusive array of integral creative artists in the filmmaking process.

“Germaine Franco, nominated for best original score [‘Encanto’], is making history this year being the first women of color ever nominated in this category and the first woman to ever score a Disney Feature. One thing we have seen throughout history is the power of representation. It can change lives and inspire future creatives. Last year Jon Batiste, winning best original score for the animated feature film ’Soul,’ was only the third black composer winning in the original score category after Prince and Herbie Hancock. The fact that historical moments like this will be hidden from the Academy Awards broadcast is a great shame.

“In 2020 Hildur Guðnadóttir won an Academy Award for best original score after sweeping the awards circuit. A quote from her acceptance speech, seen in full on the broadcast, was printed in the LA times and many other publications the next day and continues to inspire people around the world: “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within, please speak up. We need to hear your voices.”

“Wouldn’t it have been a shame if this moment would have been edited down and we would have not seen Gal Gadot, Brie Larson, and Sigourney Weaver presenting the Best Original Score award, putting the spotlight on women artistry? If we wouldn’t have seen Hildur being announced as Oscar recipient, her emotional reaction, her walk onto the stage and her full unedited acceptance speech, it would have robbed young people around the globe of an inspiring moment.

“And this is what the Academy is trying to do this year. Moving the award out of the live-telecast and editing it down will degrade the importance of this category. What message does this decision give to young people who dream of becoming a composer, to follow in the footsteps of composers such as Hildur Gudnadóttir, Rachel Portman, Anne Dudley, and Germaine Franco? We feel it gives the message that music doesn’t matter to the Oscars.

“The Alliance for Women Film Composers hopes that AMPAS will revise their decision and give all categories equal importance in order for the nominated creative artists to be seen and heard by audiences around the globe who strive that also their voices will be heard in the future. Music matters to people all over the world – and we hope AMPAS will give it the importance it deserves!

“We implore the Academy to streamline the Awards while also prioritizing inclusive representation and celebrating all the categories.”

THE POWER OF THE DOG: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021 Cross City Films Limited/Courtesy of Netflix

“The Power of the Dog”

KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Updated, February 25: The Society of Composers & Lyricists has shared a statement regarding the Academy’s recent decision to cut eight crafts categories from the live broadcast, and instead fold them into pre-recorded segments spread throughout the airing on March 27.

The Society “deeply regrets the Motion Picture Academy’s decision to exclude score composers and seven other categories of creative artists from the live presentation and acceptance of their honors during the Academy Awards broadcast. This is the first time such diminution has occurred since the Oscars® ceremony had its initial television transmission in 1953.”

The statement continued, “The SCL certainly understands the Academy’s desire to streamline the event, but this is the wrong way to do it. Music’s contribution to a film is invaluable and indispensable, as are the other crafts affected by this decision and deserve to be treated accordingly.

“We urge the Academy to reconsider this approach, and we stand ready to work with them to find a more balanced solution.”

Earlier, February 24: The Cinema Audio Society of sound mixers released a statement of protest Thursday from its board of directors in response to the growing backlash against the Academy’s decision this week to cut the sound category from the Oscar’s live broadcast at the Dolby Theater on March 24 along with seven other categories: animated, documentary, and live action shorts, editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, and production design.

“The Cinema Audio Society looks forward to celebrating this year’s Oscar nominees, regardless of how and when the Oscars ceremony will be made available. We herald the work of all our fellow filmmakers, without whom there would be no categories to broadcast or celebrate at all.

“The decision of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to celebrate some categories differently than others ultimately communicates a sobering insensitivity to the affected creative arts and is potentially divisive to the community.  This action understates the indispensable contributions these crafts impart upon the works being celebrated on Oscar night.

“It is our sincere desire that The Academy will reverse its decision and choose not to diminish the prestige of its esteemed honor to the filmmaking community.”

This follows Wednesday’s forceful statement from Mark A. Lanza, president, Motion Picture Sound Editors, IATSE Local 700:

“The Academy’s mission is to honor the craft of filmmaking in all its parts. Eliminating certain categories from the live broadcast degrades that mission. That is not to mention the bill of goods the sound branch was sold just last year when the Academy made an explicit promise not to eliminate sound from the live broadcast if they agreed to the travesty of combining sound editing and sound mixing into one category. I am still not OK with this part either. They are two different disciplines.”

So far, the Academy’s sound branch has expressed the most outrage about being excluded from the Oscar’s live broadcast. (Academy president David Rubin explained to the membership in an email letter that the reason was “to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” but that “all the nominees in ALL awards categories will be identified on air and ALL winners’ acceptance speeches will be featured on the live broadcast.”)

However, one sound branch member is so upset that they’re “considering everything up to and including resigning from the Academy,” the member told IndieWire. “I’m furious. It shows a complete lack of respect for ’the crafts.’ Sounds like we’re weaving baskets rather than creatively participating in making a film. I’ve been communicating with people…about this, and as far as I can tell there’s unanimous anger and disappointment among the sound branch at this move. There’s discussions going on about a broad response. We’re contacting directors too.”

IndieWire will continue to provide future updates of other guild responses.

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