In response to the past Oscars season’s many controversial campaigns – most notably the social media-centric efforts and hosting of events by the A-list to support Andrea Riseboroughwho unexpectedly won an Oscar for Best Actress for the small independent film to Leslie – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors has enacted the most comprehensive overhaul of its campaign promotion and awards rules since its inception in 1994.
The revised guidance was approved at last Friday’s board meeting and announced Monday as part of an effort to “bring clarity, fairness, and transparency to how film companies and individuals directly associated with award-eligible motion pictures promote[them].”
It doesn’t discourage members from posting on social media—in fact, it explicitly states: “You may encourage others to view gifs” and “You may praise gifs and achievements.” But, apparently in reaction to the kind of communication made by at least one of Riseborough’s champions, he forbids any discussion of voting: “You may not share your voting decisions at any time. You may not discuss your own voting preferences and the voting preferences of other members in Public forum. This includes comparing or ranking animations, performances, or achievements in connection with voting. This also includes talking to the press anonymously. You may not attempt to encourage other members to vote or not vote for any animation or achievement. (and You may not pressure other members directly or in a manner outside the scope of these Promotion Regulations to submit a motion picture, performance, or achievement.”
It also establishes an e-mail hotline through which members or non-members can confidentially report suspected campaign violations – Promotionregulations@oscars.org – noting that penalties for violations “may include, but are not limited to: suspension or revocation of Postal and Telecommunications House privileges.” revoking privileges to attend Academy events; disqualifying a motion picture, performance, or achievement for awards; revoking an Oscar nomination; revoking voting privileges; suspending Academy membership; and expelling a member from the Academy.
Furthermore, there is now a cap on the number of “hosted” shows allowed before nominations (four) and a complete ban on shows “hosted” after nominations; There was previously no limit to either branch. And while the Academy acknowledges that it cannot and will not consider private gatherings—of the kind held by some Riseborough supporters—as “FYC events,” it expressly prohibits motion picture companies from funding, organizing, or endorsing such events.
During the final round of Oscar voting last season, a handful of members complained about a social media item that was posted and then swiftly deleted by the head of the Academy. Janet Yangwhich some interpreted as an invitation Michelle YeohBest Actress Everything everywhere at once. Seemingly in nod to the hype, the board is cracking down on its governors’ ability to influence or otherwise influence the results of the Oscars. Unless directly related to the film, judges may no longer: (a) publicly endorse a film or film-making achievement during the period between the announcement of the shortlists and the closing of final voting; (b) hosting special events or gatherings to celebrate the achievement of a film or filmmaking; or (c) host presentations, moderated Q&As, or seminars unless they are conducted by the Academy.
The council also relaxed some terms and conditions. The maximum number of questions and answers allowed after nomination has expired (previously no more than four were allowed). Companies and filmmakers may now refer to a film as “shortlisted” in promotional materials as long as the category or categories are shortlisted (previously this was not allowed).
In addition, the Academy, which banned mailing of hardcopy checkers to members several years ago, now bans the mailing of any other type of physical material to members, including postcards and examination tables, ostensibly as part of its commitment to sustainability. From now on, this information can only be transmitted digitally via a mail house approved by the Academy.
The Academy is also trying to make its digital screening platform, the Academy Screening Room, more accessible to smaller film companies and filmmakers by offering a discounted price (by an unspecified amount) for films costing less than $10 million.
The organization is also introducing separate application deadlines for the 96th Academy Awards, requiring films released between January 1 and June 30 to be completed by September 15, and films released between July 1 and December 31 to be completed by September 15. November 15th.
The Academy is also reminding members that its “Inclusion Standards,” which were first introduced in 2020, will go into full effect this season. (THR I learned that the members were invited to a virtual meeting on May 10 to learn more about them.)
It also adjusts who can and cannot participate in two categories of the Academy Awards. At least half of the selection committees for Best International Feature Film must now consist of filmmakers (artisans and artists, as opposed to executives and publicists, for example. But now anyone can sign up for the Best Live Short Film selection committees.