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Industry Anger Grows Over Proposed Oscar Telecast Changes

Formal VES statement mirrors sentiment of many artists unhappy with decision to cut categories from live Academy Awards broadcast.

Academy members who work within film production crafts – “below the line” categories such as editing, sound and animation – have begun expressing their unhappiness with Tuesday’s Academy announcement that substantial change is coming to the Oscar telecast beginning in 2020.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, the decision to move some awards to commercial breaks, editing them into short clips for airing later in the show, is being criticized, especially since the Academy hasn’t yet revealed which categories will get short-changed come Oscar time.

In a letter to members, recently re-elected Academy president John Bailey, along with Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, explained that the board has "committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours,” and that this will be achieved in part by "present[ing] select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined)." They further noted that those categories would not be cut from the telecast, but rather, “the winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.”

As industry speculation grows as to which categories will be affected, one sound branch member, declining to be named, commented, “We are definitely upset. I definitely think the sound editing and mixing categories will be on the chopping block. Maybe editing; maybe makeup.” One film editing branch member complained, “I’m afraid this will end up being a little demeaning. It's a big thing for those of us ‘below the line’ to get such an award. It makes a big difference in your life and career.”

In an official statement posted on Facebook, Mike Chambers, Visual Effects Society chair and member of the Academy’s visual effects branch, said, “Relegating the presentation of any of the ‘below the line’ Academy Awards to the commercial breaks is a disservice to the exceptional artists and innovators who make enormous contributions to filmed entertainment. They deserve the proper respect and recognition for attaining this high achievement - as voted on by their peers - and the opportunity to receive these honors and deliver their full remarks to the worldwide audience of filmgoers.”

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.