Oscar Voter on Diversity Change: "Academy Insults All Its Members by Denying Their Elected Status"

Oscars Ain’t Broke - P 2016

This piece by Stephen Geller, a member of the Academy's writers branch who is best known for writing the screenplay of Slaughterhouse-Five, is part of an ongoing series of guest columns by Academy members about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the Academy's response to it.

This is a copy of a letter I wrote to Ms. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As an active member of the writers branch, I felt it a necessity.

Dear Ms. Isaacs:

You have opened the matter of age discrimination and the issue of "grey-listing" in the Academy and, by its presence, the industry. You are assuming that all older members of the Academy (except those like myself, who have been a member of the writers branch, elected to membership by my peers, for 30-plus years) are no longer qualified to vote and are responsible for the lack of diversity in the Academy, as well as in the film industry.

You are also assuming that if a member hasn't had a job in the industry for 10 years, or has not received a nomination or an award, such a member is also responsible for the lack of diversity in the Academy, as well as in the film industry. Both propositions are illogical, irrelevant and unwittingly insulting. There are as many reasons why one doesn't get an assignment or a film deal as there are reasons why a performer doesn't get a nomination by the Academy.

There is no reason whatsoever to penalize the Academy member for the state of the industry, or for nominations for an award by the separate Academy branches. It is bizarre to assume that, by its voting, each Academy member represents the decisions of studios, networks and talent agencies to produce films. Academy members vote on the results of decisions by others and make no decision about which films should be made, and therefore the membership should not be penalized for someone else's film choice.

The Academy consideration to revise the rules concerning diversity is nothing more than a "false flag" issue, and as such has set in motion an angry conversation, without intellectual sense, professional conviction or simple humility. It does not even begin to address the issue of diversity. What Academy, historically, ever has dealt with contemporary realities? For better and for worse, that has never been its role.

Please reconsider the issue. The Academy insults all its members by denying their elected status.

Stephen Geller,
Member of writers branch since 1987