Members of the so-called “below the line” categories — crafts people who work in categories like sound, makeup and film editing — called the Academy’s decision to relegate some of those awards to commercial breaks during the broadcast “short-sighted” and a “mistake” when contacted Wednesday.
While the Academy said those awards presentations will then be edited into shorter clips that will air later in the show — a technique that’s been used on other awards shows, like the Tonys — that idea is being criticized, especially since the Academy doesn’t appear to be ready to say exactly which categories will get the abbreviated treatment.
“We are definitely upset,” one sound branch member, who declined to be named, said as speculation surrounds which crafts as well as shorts categories, like live action, animated and documentary short, will be affected.
“I definitely think the sound editing and mixing categories will be on the chopping block,” the member added, saying that shorts and other crafts categories may also be targets. “Maybe editing; maybe makeup,” the member said.
“Relegating the presentation of any of the ‘below the line’ Academy Awards to the commercial breaks is a disservice to the exceptional artists and innovators who make enormous contributions to filmed entertainment,” said Mike Chambers, chair of the Visual Effects Society and member of the Academy’s visual effects branch. “They deserve the proper respect and recognition for attaining this high achievement — as voted on by their peers — and the opportunity to receive these honors and deliver their full remarks to the worldwide audience of filmgoers.”
“I’m afraid this will end up being a little demeaning,” warned one member of the film editing branch. “It’s a big thing for those of us ‘below the line’ to get such an award. It makes a big difference in your life and career.”
Arguing that the move is “short-sighted” as a way to grow the ratings, the sound branch source said the Oscars “lost their mojo when they went to 10 best pictures in 2009, then in 2011 when they brought in Dawn Hudson, they wanted to popularize the Academy.”
“Turning the show into a popular variety show is a mistake,” the member added, arguing that the crafts categories are not the reason the show tends to runs long. “Most of us are played off pretty quickly; it’s all the bloated stuff in between. They could do many things to streamline the show.”
Similarly, the editing branch member said, “I don’t know how they will select which categories are dropped, but I prefer they drop the musical numbers and other stuff.”
Meanwhile, members are wondering about the circumstances that led to the decision. “I can’t believe that the technical branches would vote in agreement with this,” the sound member said.