In a blow to the hopes of John Sloss of Cinetic Media and Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Films, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to follow the lead of the Producers Guild of America in denying the two awards credit as producers for their key roles in bringing Boyhood to the big screen.
If the film, which was just named best motion picture, drama, at the Golden Globes, wins the best picture Oscar at the Academy Awards on Feb. 22, Sloss and Sehring will have to remain in their seats as filmmaker Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, who started on the project as a production manager before becoming one of its producers, head up onstage.
An Academy spokesperson declined to comment on what decision has been made regarding the film’s producing credits. But it will be revealed should Boyhood be nominated — as expected — for best picture when Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 15. The best picture award goes to a film’s producers, but instead of simply following screen credits, the Academy rules state that the producers branch executive committee “will designate the qualifying producer nominees for each of the nominated pictures” with an eye toward recognizing those producers “who have performed the major portion of the producing functions.”
Sloss, Linklater’s longtime attorney, and Sehring were both early supporters of Boyhood, which took 13 years to complete. Linklater first told the two of his idea for what he called “the 12-year project” in September 2001. Both immediately backed the director, with Sehring’s company providing $200,000 a year for 12 years to finance the film, and Sloss helping to set up the unique production arrangements the film required.
According to sources, Sloss and Sehring, who were unavailable for comment, wrote a letter to advance their cause with the Academy but failed to persuade the producers branch executive committee, which considered the case when it met last week.
The decision has angered some producers not involved with the film who have learned of the ruling, including one who calls it “completely outrageous.” That person notes that Sloss and Sehring are the only players other than Linklater who were involved “every step of the way.” Another says the two deserve credit for playing a critical part in the creation of “a completely unique and untraditional movie” that shot for just three to four days each year, adding, “Whether that fits a certain rulebook doesn’t matter to me.”
The reference is to the Producers Guild’s carefully delineated criteria for who deserves credit for awards purposes. The guild favors — in the words of national executive director Vance Van Petten — those who make “contributions across the entire production process, including script development, casting, prep, filming and on-set supervision.” The PGA decided last fall that in the case of Boyhood, it would only recognize Linklater and Sutherland for awards purposes, and the Academy generally follows the PGA’s lead on such decisions. There have been exceptions, though: Last year, for example, the PGA nominated Riza Aziz, Emma Koskoff and Joey McFarland for The Wolf of Wall Street, but the Academy chose to nominate Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio along with Koskoff and McFarland, while ignoring Aziz.
In response to the PGA decision, Linklater issued a statement saying that Sloss and Sehring were “integral to the making of Boyhood over the last 12 years” and that he was “happy to share producer credit with them.” But he said decisions about who receives a credit is up to the organizations that confer awards.
One source with ties to the guild defended the decision to exclude Sloss and Sehring. What they did “is very noble but it is not producing,” that person says. “Did they get involved in casting? Did they sit out all night on night shoots freezing their asses off? That’s producing.”