Academy Sets Tough Oscar Campaign Rules
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is cracking down on Oscar campaigning that pushes the proverbial envelope.
And, in a separate development, the Academy’s board of governors has also made rule changes in several Oscar categories, such as foreign film, animation and sound, which will now be known as sound mixing.
The Academy took a stern tone in announcing its new campaign rules Wednesday. “There will now be personal consequences to improper campaigning,” Academy president Frank Pierson warned.
But while it toughened several rules, the Academy also relaxed one prescription that has prevented studios from sending out screener videos and DVDs to Academy members beforeNov. 1. Companies may now send out screeners as early as they like.
In place of what had previously been known as “guidelines,” the Academy called its new campaign standards “regulations” and warned that serious violations “could result in a film losing its eligibility for awards consideration.”
When rules were violated in the past, the Academy’s standard penalty was to revoke tickets to the Oscar ceremony.
Chief among the new rules is a ban on “any form of advertising that includes quotes or comments by Academy members.”
During the most recent Oscar season, the Academy took issue with ads from Miramax Films in which Robert Wise, a past Academy president, argued that Martin Scorsese deserved to win a directing Oscar. The year before, 20th Century Fox ran a “Moulin Rouge” ad that carried testimonials from such Academy members as Wise and Stanley Donen.
One new bit of wording added to the preamble that accompanies the regulations was already causing concern among some Academy campaigners Wednesday.
In an attempt to outlaw overzealous campaigning for which no specific rule had been formulated, the Academy said: “Any Academy member who has authorized, approved or executed a campaign activity that is determined by the board of governors to have undermined the letter or spirit of these regulations will be subject to suspension of membership or expulsion from the Academy.”
To some that suggested the possibility that some future campaign could be accused of inadvertently violating rules that had not been specifically enunciated.
But veteran Oscar campaigner Tony Angelotti argued: “It simply holds us accountable for what we were already accountable for. It cautions anyone of a mind to cross the line that they will risk punishment for either themselves or those they report to. There isn’t one soul among the 6,000 Academy members willing to risk that.”
In a separate action, the board of governors, which met last week, also approved several rule changes affecting specific Oscar categories:
* The sound award has been renamed the “sound mixing” award. “I think there has been some degree of confusion, among even knowledgeable individuals within the industry, as to the distinctions between the (sound and sound editing) awards,” said Paul Huntsman, a member of the Academy board of governors, sound branch.
* In the foreign-language film category, films must be in the official language of the country submitting the film, with the exception of “films involving subcultures that speak a non-English, nonofficial language … if their subject matter concerns life in the submitting country.”
Academy spokesman John Pavlik said the rule was refined in response to submissions like the Hindi-language “The Warrior,” which Great Britain attempted to enter last year. The new rule would still disallow that film since it wasn’t shot in Britain, but would allow a film about Hindi-speaking characters shot in Britain.
* For the animated feature, the Academy may now hand out two Oscar statuettes per winning film. Previously, it permitted only one name, the key creative person, to be submitted for the award. It will now accept the nomination of a two-person team if that team has “shared and equal directing credit.”
Academy Sets Tough Oscar Campaign Rules