Academy Reopens Grant Program Following Its Controversial Suspension

Dolby Theater Oscars Interior - H 2013
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Dolby Theater Oscars Interior - H 2013

After an extensive evaluation process, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is relaunching its grant program, offering the Film Scholar Fund and the Film Craft and Film Watch grants.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is reinstituting a trio of grants that were tabled in 2014 to give the organization time to reevalute its grant-giving processes.

The Academy is resuming its Film Scholar Fund — two $25,000 grants awarded to individuals to support new works of film scholarship. According to the organization's website, the purpose of the Film Scholar program is to "support new works of film scholarship."

The other two grants are the Film Craft grant, awarded to an education institution in an amount ranging from $5,000-$25,000, and the Film Watch grant, given to eligible film festivals in an amount ranging from $5,000-$30,000. The grant programs launch Oct. 15 when the Academy opens the application process on its website. Winners are scheduled to be announced in the spring.

The Academy’s Randy Haberkamp, managing director preservation and foundation programs, tells THR that during the suspension period, the organization closely examined the grant process to determine which grants were most effective and how those grants tied in with the Academy's focus on diversity, education, outreach and mission. Haberkamp adds that he's grateful to the Academy's membership and committees for their work during the evaluation process in getting the program back on track.

"One of the insights from the (reevaluation process) is that the Academy needed to communicate with itself better," he explains. "We are responsible for the programs and we needed to ask ourselves, 'What is the cost?' It's more than just cutting a check. … Even though it was a controversial decision, it was a very smart decision to stand back. We have limited resources, and it was a good time to use those resources … and say, 'Let’s take an educated look at everything.' "

Haberkamp notes that the Film Scholar fund is closely tied to the Academy library, where scholars are able to utilize the facility for research purposes. "We’ve spent all this time and energy — and money — on this library, and it's gratifying to be able to have these collections available for scholarly work," he says.

The suspension period did not come and go without controversy. There was an outcry from organizations and individuals criticizing the Academy for pulling its grant programs ("They spend more money on flower arrangements at the Governor's Ball," complained one film scholar). And Haberkamp says they heard the talk. 

"Nobody wants to just be gladhanding; people want to see results. Of course, I wish it were under less controversial terms, but I'm happy people know that the Academy took a long hard look at it and it's now back on track," he concludes. "It's a fully formed program."