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In response to several controversial campaigns last Oscar season — most notably the social media-centric and event-hosting efforts of A-listers in support of Andrea Riseborough, who landed an unexpected best actress Oscar nom for the little-seen indie To Leslie — the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has enacted the most sweeping reforms of its campaign promotional regulations and awards rules since their inception in 1994.
The revised guidance was approved at last Friday’s board meeting and announced on Monday as part of an effort “to bring clarity, fairness and transparency to how motion picture companies and individuals directly associated with awards-eligible motion pictures may promote [them].”
It does not discourage social media posting by members — in fact, it explicitly states, “You may encourage others to view motion pictures” and “You may praise motion pictures and achievements.” But, seemingly in response to the sort of outreach conducted by at least one of Riseborough’s champions, it forbids any discussion of voting: “You may not share your voting decisions at any point. You may not discuss your voting preferences and other members’ voting preferences in a public forum. This includes comparing or ranking motion pictures, performances, or achievements in relation to voting. This also includes speaking with press anonymously. You may not attempt to encourage other members to vote for or not vote for any motion picture or achievement. [And] you may not lobby other members directly or in a manner outside of the scope of these promotion regulations to advance a motion picture, performance or achievement.”
It also establishes an email hotline through which members or nonmembers can confidentially report suspected campaign violations — email@example.com — while noting that penalties for violations “may include but are not limited to: suspending or revoking mailing house and communications privileges; revoking privileges to attend Academy events; disqualifying a motion picture, performance or achievement for awards consideration; rescinding an Oscar nomination; revoking voting privileges; suspending Academy membership; and expelling a member from the Academy.”
Moreover, there is now a cap on the number of “hosted” screenings that are permitted pre-nominations (four) and a total ban on “hosted” screenings post-nominations; there was previously no limit for either sort. And while the Academy acknowledges that it cannot and will not regard private gatherings — of the sort convened by some of Riseborough’s backers — as “FYC events,” it expressly forbids motion picture companies from funding, organizing or endorsing such events.
During the final round of Oscar voting last season, a few members complained about a social media item that was posted and then quickly deleted by Academy president Janet Yang, which some interpreted as advocating for Michelle Yeoh, a best actress contender Everything Everywhere All at Once. Seemingly in reference to that brouhaha, the board is cracking down on the ability of its own governors to weigh in on or otherwise influence Oscar outcomes. Unless they are directly associated with the film, governors may no longer: (a) publicly endorse a film or filmmaking achievement during the time between the announcement of shortlists and the close of final voting; (b) host private events or gatherings celebrating a film or filmmaking achievement; or (c) host screenings or moderate Q&As or panels unless they are convened by the Academy.
The board loosened some terms and conditions, as well. Gone is the cap on post-nomination Q&As that are permitted (no more than four were previously permitted). And companies and filmmakers may now refer to a film as “shortlisted” in promotional materials as long as the shortlisted category or categories are specified (this was not previously permitted).
Additionally, the Academy, which banned film companies from mailing hard-copy screeners to members several years ago, has now banned them from mailing of any other sort of physical material to members, including postcards and screening schedules, ostensibly as part of its commitment to sustainability. Going forward, such information can only be conveyed digitally via an Academy-approved mailing house.
The Academy is also trying to make its digital screening platform, the Academy Screening Room, more accessible to smaller film companies and filmmakers by introducing a discounted rate [of an unspecified amount] for films that cost less than $10 million.
And the organization is introducing split submission deadlines for the 96th Oscars race, requiring the submission of films released between Jan. 1 and June 30 to be completed by Sept. 15, and of films released between July 1 and Dec. 31 to be completed by Nov. 15.
The Academy also reminds members that its “inclusion standards,” which were first teased in 2020, will take full effect this season. (THR has learned that members have been invited to a virtual meeting on May 10 to learn more about them.)
It also is amending who can and cannot weigh in on two Oscar categories. Any member — as opposed to just members of the organization’s short film and feature animation branch — can now opt in to vote to determine the nominees for the best live action short Oscar. And at least half of each nation’s selection committee that determines that nation’s best international feature film Oscar submission — none of whom are required to be Academy members at all — must now be comprised of filmmakers (meaning, artists and craftspeople).
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