November 30, 2011 5:16pm PT by Tim Appelo
Academy President Implores Members to Watch Movies, Not Screeners (Exclusive)
New Academy rules allowing screenings accompanied by parties and Q&As before the nominations are announced Jan. 24 have created confusion in the minds of many Academy members, which has resulted in Academy president Tom Sherak sending an email to the membership -- and then a followup email -- in an effort to clarify the new rules.
In the first one, sent last week, Sherak urged members to see movies on the big screen and not just rely on screeners. "I believe that the only way we can ensure the integrity of the Oscar is for us to see movies as they were intended to be seen – in their entirety, on the movie theater screen," wrote Sherak. He also implored them not to treat parties and Q&As "as a replacement for actually watching the movies up for nomination." Such events "may not be a violation of the current rules," wrote Sherak, but "they are occasionally at odds with the intent of those rules."
The Academy got lots of calls and questions from confused members wondering whether it was OK to go to the events or not. So Sherak sent this followup email: "Dear Academy Members, We’ve been asked to clarify the intent of our most recent letter regarding attending film Q&A panel discussions and other events. The letter was meant to encourage the membership to see as many movies as possible in theaters. All the currently scheduled events that we are aware of fall within our stated guidelines, and members should feel free to participate. Whatever event(s) you choose to attend, our hope is that you will be even more motivated to see the movies themselves."
Sherak's original letter was just one in the latest of many requests from Academy presidents current and past, urging members to see films on the big screen. Here are the passages from the original letter that evidently confused many members:
"Dear Academy Member,
Having just celebrated our third Annual Governor’s Awards, the 2011 Oscar® season has officially begun. I want us all to take a moment to appreciate the magnitude of what that means. For 83 years, the Academy Awards® have represented the best of the best in the world of movies and the art of filmmaking. In their purist form, the Awards allow the members of the Academy to celebrate the year’s cinematic achievements. Our members rise above all of the outside pressures and bestow our industry’s highest honor upon peers, colleagues, and friends whom they believe most deserving.
The studios have already mailed out some of this year’s movie screeners, and it is certainly tempting to view them in the comfort of our homes. But I believe that the only way we can ensure the integrity of the Oscar is for us to see movies as they were intended to be seen – in their entirety, on the movie theater screen.
During this Oscar season, you will probably be invited to pre-nomination parties or perhaps Q&A sessions with actors, directors, producers, and others associated with the films. While events such as these may not be a violation of the current rules, they are occasionally at odds with the intent of those rules.
I implore you to remember what we stand for as an organization and the job we are entrusted to do. An Academy Award cannot be bought – it must be earned, and we are responsible for protecting not only the legitimacy of the award, but also the manner in which the nominees are chosen. This is why I ask that you not treat these non-screening events as a replacement for actually watching the movies up for nomination. We owe it to our fellow Academy members – our peers, colleagues, and friends – to see their work as it was meant to be seen.
So, as we step into another Oscar season, we want you to enjoy the journey, take pride in the work produced by all of us in the film industry, and treasure the films that will be forever known as those considered for the 84th Oscar season.
I wish you and your families a happy and healthy holiday season."