Cinematographers Guild President, Camerimage Founder Speak Out Against Academy Decision

"This is a collaborative process and this change appears to elevate certain crafts above others," writes ICG head Steven Poster of the Academy's "humiliating" decision to present four Oscar categories during commercial breaks.
Mathew Imaging/WireImage

Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, called the Academy's decision to present four Oscar categories during commercial breaks "humiliating" and "extremely disheartening."

Also in response to the decision, Marek Żydowicz, founder and head of international cinematography festival Camerimage, send a letter to the Academy, urging it to reconsider its decision to present four categories during commercial breaks with taped versions of the winners' acceptance speeches set to air later in the Feb. 24 ABC broadcast--addressing pressure to reduce the length of the show.

Cinematography is one of four categories affected, along with film editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action shorts. Poster issued a statement in which he said, "This change appears to elevate certain crafts above others."

Zydowicz send the Academy "an urgent plea not to depreciate the importance of the award for cinematography, not to diminish the role of the profession of directors of photography, and not to exclude this professional minority from this year’s live broadcast. We have enough exclusions and humiliations in the modern world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should stand above and beyond that."

Poster said that he'd contacted Academy president John Bailey (who is himself a cinematographer), who assured him that all the nominees will be "noted" during the broadcast, but Poster said that's "not the same."

Poster's complete statement reads:

This decision is extremely disheartening. As Matt Loeb, international president of the IATSE, said, 'These below-the-line crafts, including cinematographers, editors and hair and makeup stylists, are the very core of movie-making.' I immediately reached out to Academy president John Bailey, a member of our own guild, who assured me that all of the nominees would be 'noted' during the broadcast. It's not the same. This is a collaborative process, and this change appears to elevate certain crafts above others. People wait their entire lives to receive an Oscar in front of millions, and it is humiliating to have that moment reduced to an afterthought.

 

The full letter from Camerimage's Zydowicz follows:

Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Film Artists!

It was with great surprise and regret that I heard about the decision of the organizers of this year’s Academy Awards to depreciate the importance of the award for cinematography by deciding to announce the winners of four below-the-line categories during commercial breaks and editing them into the Oscars telecast at a later time.

As the founder and director of CAMERIMAGE, the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, I have spent a great part of the past thirty years promoting the immense importance and critical role of cinematographers in the history and development of the art of motion picture. It has always been the mission of our festival to oppose the ignorance behind the ongoing commercialization of this vital profession.

What we have been trying to point out and prove for years is that there is a considerable difference between technical proficiency in handling camera equipment that allows for proper video recording and the act of conscious creation of motion picture through the use of a wide range of artistic means of expression: composition of the frame, the use of contrasts, color and camera movement, etc. The real art is to create an image that will delight the viewers with its form, while its aesthetic appeal will reinforce the emotional influence of the stories told by the directors and actors, screenwriters and editors. The artists of camera bring their individual contribution to each film, that intangible cinematic essence hidden between the words of the script that becomes the image ultimately etched in the memory of the viewers – an individual’s artistic expression through motion picture. We cannot degrade camera artists by stripping them off their moment of due recognition from the entire film world!

I would like to address the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organizers of the Academy Awards and all artists – members of the Academy – with an urgent plea not to depreciate the importance of the award for cinematography, not to diminish the role of the profession of directors of photography, and not to exclude this professional minority from this year’s live broadcast. We have enough exclusions and humiliations in the modern world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should stand above and beyond that.

The Academy Awards ceremony is a wonderful celebration of motion picture artistry and not just a commercial show. Since it only comes once a year, let the artists enjoy it too, not only the business people.

I truly hope that the Academy and the organizers of the Academy Awards will give back the cinematographers and other artists their due place during this most important ceremony for our industry.

Sincerely,

Marek Żydowicz