Some of Hollywood’s top filmmakers and former Oscar winners are calling on the Academy to rethink its decision to pre-record eight categories ahead of the March 27 telecast.
James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, John Williams, Kathleen Kennedy, and more than six dozen others signed an open letter addressed to Academy President David Rubin slamming the decision to record the wins for best documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live-action short, and sound outside of the live Dolby Theatre ceremony.
The letter explained that such a decision would “demean” those categories and “relegate [them] to the status of second-class citizens,” as shared with Variety. Though the eight categories taking place prior to the 5 p.m. start time will be integrated into the broadcast, these artists are pushing the Academy to reverse its decision and present all 23 Oscar categories live.
“To diminish any of those individual categories in the pursuit of ratings and short-term profits does irreparable damage to the Academy’s standing as impartial arbiters, responsible stewards of our industry’s most important awards,” the letter reads.
Academy president David Rubin announced February 22 via email that eight selected categories would be pre-recorded ahead of the live ceremony from the Dolby Theatre, with the rationale being “to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant.” Rubin emphasized 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. Every awarded filmmaker and artist in every category will still have the celebratory ‘Oscar moment’ they deserve on the stage of the Dolby, facing an enrapt audience.”
Yet the open letter from select filmmakers slammed the reasoning, writing, “Seeking new audiences by making the telecast more entertaining is a laudable and important goal, but this cannot be achieved by demeaning the very crafts that, in their most outstanding expressions, make the art of filmmaking worthy of celebration.”
The statement urged Rubin and other Academy board members to “in the strongest possible terms … reverse your decision,” adding, “For nearly a century, the Academy Award has represented the gold standard in recognizing and honoring all the essential crafts in filmmaking. Now, as we approach Oscar’s 100th year, we are deeply troubled that this gold standard is being tarnished by valuing some filmmaking disciplines over others, relegating those others to the status of second-class citizens. Critical artistic crafts like music scoring, film editing, production design, makeup, hairstyling and sound will always deserve the same respect and recognition as crafts like acting, directing and visual effects.”
Composer and five-time Oscar winner John Williams was among the signatories of the open letter; Williams holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations with 52.
Directors del Toro, Cameron, and Joe Roth; producers Kennedy and Lili Fini Zanuck; costume designer Milena Canonero; production designers Dean Tavoularis, Dante Ferretti, and Geoffrey Kirkland; and cinematographers Dante Spinotti and Vittorio Storaro also signed the open letter.
More than three dozen composers also added their names, including Oscar winners Howard Shore, Dave Grusin, Alexandre Desplat, Steven Price, Hildur Guðnadóttir, John Corigliano, Tan Dun and Jan Kaczmarek; former Oscar nominees Nicholas Britell, Terence Blanchard, Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, David Newman, Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann, John Powell, and Alan Silvestri; and Emmy winner Ramin Djawadi.
Prior to this letter, filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, Denis Villeneuve, and Jane Campion also previously expressed disapproval of the Academy’s decision.
See the complete letter and list of signees below:
Dear President Rubin:
We the undersigned urge you in the strongest possible terms, along with your colleagues on the Awards Committee, to reverse your decision to remove the presentation of eight awards categories from the live telecast of this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, including Best Original Score, Film Editing, Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound, Documentary Short Subject and both Live Action and Animated Short Film.
For nearly a century, the Academy Awards has represented the gold standard in recognizing and honoring all of the essential crafts in filmmaking. Now, as we approach the Oscars’ 100th year, we are deeply troubled that this gold standard is being tarnished by valuing some filmmaking disciplines over others and relegating those others to the status of second-class citizen. Critical artistic crafts like music scoring, film editing, production design, makeup, hairstyling, and sound will always deserve the same respect and recognition as crafts like acting, directing, and visual effects. To diminish any of these individual categories in the pursuit of ratings and short-term profits does irreparable damage to the Academy’s standing as impartial arbiters and responsible stewards of our industry’s most important awards.
Seeking new audiences by making the telecast more entertaining is a laudable and important goal, but this cannot be achieved by demeaning the very crafts that, in their most outstanding expressions, make the art of filmmaking worthy of celebration.
Guillermo del Toro
Bruce A. Evans
James Newton Howard
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Lili Fini Zanuck