Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters

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As part of new measures, Ampas has promised merciless action if members attend ‘any screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote’

Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters
Party’s over … the Elton John AIDS Foundation party after the 1996 Oscars. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

The Academy for Motion Pictures and Sciences has taken drastic action to try and prevent further accusations of latent prejudice among its members.

On 29 June an unprecedented number of new members – 683, more than double the usual figure – were invited to join, in the hope that their improved levels of diversity (46% women and 41% people of colour) might help avoid another year in which no ethnic minorities were nominated for acting awards.

But other measures, announced on Thursday, were also approved at the board of governors meeting on 28 June, chief among them measures that draw a clearer line between social events and lobbying.

In an attempt to level the playing field for less well-funded films, the new campaign regulations state that “Academy members may not be invited to attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote”.

The consequences of non-compliance includes losing membership; the onus falls on members themselves, as well as those seeking to butter them up.

“Members who fail to comply with this regulation,” explain the rules, “will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations.”

The Academy has also outlawed any screening that includes a live performance of a song from a soundtrack that is eligible for an award. As the Hollywood Reporter has pointed out, this could become problematic when many members are required to attend crossover events, such as the Producers Guild of America awards, at which this year Lady Gaga performed Till It Happens to You. That song lost out to Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall at the 2016 Oscars.

More stringent requirements were also demanded of features, which must now not only complete a week’s run in Los Angeles before the deadline but also guarantee at least three screenings a day, including one at prime time. A similar rule concerning documentaries and New York has been loosened, however, so that those which complete the required run in any of the city’s borough’s are now eligible.

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