Oscars: What Is The Academy's Unprecedented Membership Meeting Really All About?

Speculation has been swirling this Easter holiday weekend in the media and among Academy types just exactly what the Save The Date for the “special event”  the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just sent out to their members (in an email from President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson) actually means. In a highly unusual move for the Acad the organization is holding a general membership meeting for its approximately 6000 members on May 4. The bi-coastal event taking place simultaneously in L.A., NY and San Francisco at 10AM (PT) and 1PM (ET) is titled “The Future Of Our Academy” and will include questions and conversation among those attending  either in L.A. or likely via satellite hookups in the other two cities from what I understand. The actual specifics are being worked out and will be detailed later but clearly the Academy wanted to get this on the out there now for planning purposes. Officially the Acad is mum on any of this except to acknowledge it is happening.

Since the Academy is prominently using the word “future” in promoting this fairly unprecedented event to its elite membership we can probably assume it will not be a post-mortem on the recent – and controversial – Oscar show hosted by Seth MacFarlane which drew strong ratings but a highly mixed response inside and out of the Academy. One member who showed me his “save the date” on his iphone yesterday described his reaction to the show as “violently” hating it, but many others I have talked to in the past month seemed to be much more positive about it  and surprised at the sharp response to it from the naysayers. Nevertheless even though the Academy isn’t commenting officially yet,  industry insiders with knowledge of the May 4th event  tell me  that it is not in any way a reaction to the Oscar show but something that has been planned for a very long time. In fact it falls right in line with the agenda  Hudson has been promoting all along, and that has included several “branch mixers” in the past year encouraging more social engagement among members. It clearly seems to be a larger part of her strategy in encouraging the rank and file to share ideas, and for Koch represents another innovative perk he can point to in his limited one year term as Academy President. Think of this as a “mixer” on a much larger scale. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is big on this concept as well and, while not throwing massive membership meetings , in fact will be hosting their “Spring Mixer” for a sold out group of 600 members this week at the Montage in Beverly Hills.

Exactly what the Motion Picture Academy’s presentation will be is still a work-in-progress I am told as details are just beginning to be worked out,  but clearly it can’t be anything but a positive move for the normally tight-lipped organization, that is unless in the unlikely event the members rise  up en-masse and start reading the riot act to their leadership. I’m betting the still hot- button issue of moving from five to ten Best Picture nominees will be part of the “conversation” but that’s generally territory for the more closeted Board Of Governors to take up. But who knows? And by  doing this on a Saturday morning the Academy also hopes to get more real industry players to participate as well instead of just the older members who have more time on their hands for Academy activities. We’ll see who shows but opening the lines of communication is a promising  move if you are an Academy member.

At the very least it ought to be a great networking opportunity and the place to be a fly on the wall May 4th.

  1. I think it will be about what to do with all of these comic books adaptations that are brainless and leaves no room for cinematic art. And doesnt create any jobs for us well-trained actors and craftsmen. It is all VFX. “I need a job folks” kind of meeting. Lets make cinema not a ride or a video game.

    1. I doubt it.

      Action/comic book/sci fi/fantasy films very rarely, if ever, get recognition at the Oscars beyond technical awards. Besides, those types of movies are more often than not big money makers for the studios during the summer.

      There are plenty of movies for “serious” actors being made that the Academy does recognize.

    2. yes, brainless movies were invented for video games and comic books. you’re blaming a symptom for the disease.

    3. ” doesnt create any jobs for us well-trained actors and craftsmen”? Are you kidding? Whatever you may think of the QUALITY of them, those Marvel movies are running on old-school star power and production values.
      “Not creating jobs”? EXACTLY the opposite.

    4. I have to agree with merrrrraanga. Don’t blame a symptom for the disease. We all know that the comic book genre can create crappy movies (The Fantastic Four franchise) as well as worthwhile stories (The Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan). Don’t box the entire genre into bad film making or acting. As if Heath Ledger won that supporting actor award for no reason. The genre isn’t to blame but the crappy filmmakers who don’t know a thing about anything are. More quality is needed from writers and directors, not the source material. Remember, graphic novels win awards too.

  2. I’ll bet money (not a lot, say $20) that it’s some kind of rah-rah for the project at LACMA.

    My guess.

    –t

  3. They’ll be wanting to turn the Oscars into the MTV Movie Awards, by eliminating–or seperating–categories like Writing, Animation, Editing, Music, Short Films, Makeup, Costumes, Production Design from the ceremony. Thereby turning it into a celebration of strictly ego than a celebration of the Cinematic Arts, as the Academy was established to do.

    1. Don’t kid yourself. The Academy was created mainly because Louis B. Mayer and the other studio bosses needed a way to pacify the guilds.

      Cinematic Artistry didn’t happen until much later.

  4. My sources say that there is simmering discontent within the Academy over Hudson’s plans to broaden (and probably cheapen) the Academy’s valuable trademarks and reputation through marketing, licensing, and franchising Oscar®. The Academy — which was organized as a union-busting organization — now wants to make itself more accessible to a public they fear has lost interest. But that means making its image less exclusive.

  5. To establish a protocol or format by which they get a host that is well-respected in the industry and maybe cuts the show down a little bit in terms of the length of the actual program. The show is too long as it is and the host for this year was a disgrace.

  6. Mediocrity,is films great enemy,it destroyed Radio, it is destroying Football and it is lurking anywhere political correctness , change for change sake,or idealess money lovers ,exist. Lets hope thats what the meeting will explore why the Oscars are and should remain the standard in Awards , driving,compelling,fueling,ART,VISION RISK…FOR…..SIGNIFICANCE,PURITY,LOVE
    ernesthenry VogtII

  7. How about doing away with the preferential balloting system and nominating the 5 nominees who get the most votes? This will eliminate these godawful snubs like Affleck & Bigelow in Best Director. How about banning Harvey Weinstein from being able to campaign and buy unworthy nominations and wins? There’s something a lot of us would love to see.

    1. Amen to that! It must be frustrating for voters too, to be hard-pressed to list five entries per category, knowing full well that only one of them, if any, will get your vote. The current system works in favor of fringe candidates with a small but passionate base of supporters, whereas the whole point of the Academy Awards is to determine which films and performances are garnering the most praise within the industry, not just rapturous applause from small groups. A non-preferential system might not actually change the results, but it would be a much more satisfying voting experience.

      1. You are right on the money. The voting system needs a small revamp. Also, campaigning needs to be curtailed. To that end, it is very likely (in Nikki’s dreams) that the Golden Globe winners get shut out at the Oscars. To that extent, it could also be likely that the Academy is going to start the process of creating an Oscars nomination show.

  8. Or worse try to push technology and have some silly site about cameras being compared-
    we know what cameras to use and dont need some actor doing a V/O telling us about our cameras-
    sorry that so many of these guys still have 35mm film in the brain

    The focus should be on FAKE CREDITS – if an actor reduces his fee that doesnt mean he can get his gal pal an EP or P credit – it is credit fraud –
    Or why to Foreign Dist take an EP credit that is BS as well

  9. My guess is they are looking to promote a more diversified membership. As to how is up for debate…

  10. This about the future of the Academy, not the Oscars.
    My bet is this will be pretty much fluff and have to do with how they engage with the public with outreach and events.
    But, if I had to think big, I’d guess this will be thinking about expanding the the term “motion pictures” to go beyond the projected image and theatrical distribution. A long shot, but since that’s where all the talent and eyeballs are turning, may be inevitable.

  11. They might be alerting members that because film distribution and delivery systems are changing – hello, VOD – the whole nature of what is considered a movie eligible for consideration needs to be discussed in the years ahead. This could be a really big deal ahead, since the Oscars have always for the feature film categories been considered as being only for theatrically released films.

    They might also, unlike what happened when they expanded the BP category, want to alert members to some other proposals the Board of Governors might be discussing ahead.

  12. Hope they go back to 5 best picture nominees: it added way more prestige to being a Best Picture Nominee, now most films are lol

  13. Maybe it’s like the recent Republican event about reaching out to the minorities and expanding the base. Nah.

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