American Cinema Editors, Editors Guild Heads Call on Academy to Reverse Its Oscars Decision

"We respectfully ask that the Academy and ABC please consider an alternative to this decision and equally honor the people who actually make the movies," writes ACE president Stephen Rivkin.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Leaders of honorary society American Cinema Editors and IATSE's Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700) on Thursday issued statements on the Academy's decision to present four Oscar categories during commercial breaks.

Film editing is one of four categories affected, along with cinematography, live-action shorts and makeup and hairstyling. Per the Academy's plan, these categories will be presented during commercial breaks and video of the presentations will air later in the Feb. 24 ABC broadcast of the 91st Oscars. The plan calls for a rotation, meaning that at least four different categories would be presented in this manner in 2020.

In a released statement, ACE president Steven Rivkin wrote: "The American Cinema Editors has been dedicated to elevating the perception of the art of film editing for nearly 70 years and we remain deeply committed to that core mission. Although we understand the tremendous pressure put on the Academy by the ABC Network to shorten the show to 3 hours, we cannot agree with any idea that diminishes the effort for which we have fought so hard: to promote and recognize Film Editing as the key creative position that it holds in the process of making a film."

Rivkin continues in his statement: "Compressing four categories and presenting them in a shortened version later during the Oscar telecast will not amount to enough running time to save more than a handful of minutes. This is hardly enough to be worth the amount of negative sentiment expressed by our ACE membership and the industry as a whole. We respectfully ask that the Academy and ABC please consider an alternative to this decision and equally honor the people who actually make the movies."

Also on Thursday, Editors Guid president Alan Heim sent an email to the Guild's 8,100 members, voicing his union’s opposition to the Film Academy decision. "It doesn't matter which categories are affected this year or next; none of them should be," he asserted. "The very idea is anathema to the collaborative nature of filmmaking."

The letter concluded, "There is much outcry for the Academy to reverse its decision, and the Motion Picture Editors Guild joins those voices. If it does not reverse its decision, let us all do everything we can to see that this demeaning experiment will not be repeated."

Heim further commented, “I have tremendous respect for the Academy’s Board of Governors. I know they never intended any disrespect to the ‘below the line’ crafts. And as editors we understand the value of effective, concise storytelling. But, when a change is so difficult to explain to the audience, perhaps it just isn’t a good idea.” 

Separately, an open letter to the Academy and the producers of the Oscars broadcast has been signed by members of numerous Academy branches, including film editors, urging the Academy to reverse its decision.

The Academy on Wednesday responded with a letter to members justifying its plan, which was prompted by pressure to reduce the length of the Feb. 24 ABC broadcast.

The full text of Heim’s letter to Editors Guild members appears below.

Dear members, 

In its mandate to shorten the Academy Awards’ telecast, the Academy has insulted all of us who work "below the line." Many of our members and those of other IATSE Locals are understandably upset. 
 
The people who watch the Awards across the nation and the world should be fully exposed to ALL of the crafts that go into the creation of a film.  The Awards should be entertaining but they are also an opportunity to enrich the film-going experience of the audience by informing them of the creativity our crafts bring to every project. How many people over the years have been motivated to pursue careers in film after watching the Awards? The educational value may be even more important than the entertainment.
 
It doesn't matter which categories are affected this year or next; none of them should be. The very idea is anathema to the collaborative nature of filmmaking. The Academy has historically honored ALL of the crafts involved in filmmaking and the search for better TV ratings shouldn't affect that. We have always been told that the Academy honors the very best in filmmaking, but removing some categories from equal acknowledgement on the air seems to contradict that narrative.
 
There is much outcry for the Academy to reverse its decision, and the Motion Picture Editors Guild joins those voices. If it does not reverse its decision, let us all do everything we can to see that this demeaning experiment will not be repeated.
 
Yours in solidarity, 
 
Alan Heim, ACE
President, Motion Picture Editors Guild IATSE Local 700

UPDATED Feb. 14, 7:26PM with Editors Guild response