UPDATED with meeting details: The president of the American Society of Cinematographers and a contingent of Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated DPs met Thursday night with Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson and president John Bailey over the Academy’s plan to keep four categories out of the Oscarcast, a decision has met with much criticism since it was officially announced Monday.
Sources said the meeting, held at Academy HQ, was cordial as both sides presented their cases. This comes amid the plan to have four categories — Cinematography, Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling and Live-Action Short — receive their awards off-air, to be editing back into the show later in the broadcast.
The Editors Guild and the American Cinema Editors have both also criticized the move, which had been floated as early as September by Bailey, who is himself a governor in the Cinematographer who has previously received a Lifetime Achievement honor from the ASC. The plan was to tighten the show, which airs live on ABC, and keep it at three hours.
The sides parted company Thursday night with the Academy saying it would respond some time today to the ASC’s complaints, according to an ASC letter to members that is being circulated. It’s unclear what any kind of Academy response might look like.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE, February 14 PM: The president of the American Society of Cinematographers, Kees van Oostrum, told me today he has requested an urgent meeting with Motion Picture Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, which he says in the works and is awaiting confirmation from AMPAS and is hopeful it will happen as early as this afternoon. He will attend, along with cinematographers Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Rachel Morrison and Hoyt van Hoytema, to try and come to some sort of resolution regarding the ongoing controversy in moving four categories including Cinematography and Film Editing to commercial breaks on this year’s Oscarcast.
“We want to resolve this as human beings amongst human beings,” van Oostrum said in a phone conversation. “We don’t want to end up with this conversation in the press and going back and forth and insulting each other basically. We want to sit down and talk about this and basically tell them to reverse this decision. I don’t think that’s too hard to do for them.”
So why not meet with AMPAS president John Bailey too? Bailey is a longtime member of ASC, a life achievement honoree at the society, and a current ASC board member. As Academy president and a governor of the Cinematographers Branch, he made the initiative to volunteer his category as one of the first to do this.
“I think John to be honest with you is in a difficult spot,” van Oostrum said. “We have the greatest respect for him as a cinematographer and also as a human being, and somebody who is extremely thoughtful and considerate, but we feel that we want to reach out to the management, to the CEO, which is Dawn Hudson because this problem is brought upon us not by the board and the creative people at the Academy but upon us by the financial agreement that the Academy has with a network [ABC], so that is why we requested this meeting so we can start talking some real aspects of this situation. I think in the end that Bailey agrees with the view that cinematographers don’t want to be short-changed. He has been one his whole life and one of the most fervent defenders of our craft. I think we want to reach further than him at this point and get deeper into the Academy to see what the issue is,” he said.
The ASC’s website has been acting as host for an open letter that is growing hourly with major names in the business including cinematographers, editors, actors, and directors expressing their disappointment and urging the Academy to reverse course. It began with a group of cinematographers who wish to remain anonymous.
“It has taken on its own life, and it includes many directors and most of them are bigger than life, and there are 75 actors now from Brad Pitt to Robert De Niro and everything in between, and of course editors and filmmakers .. it is growing as we speak, and I think it is one of those grass roots developments that I think are really interesting,” he said.
“It shows me that what we are talking about by adding three minutes to the show seems like a smaller problem than the bigger iceberg we have in the Academy. I think that standing on principle right now (is right) and saying, ‘Hey we want to be respected. Don’t come to us with a foreshortened ceremony…if something needs to be cut let’s cut everybody else as well,’ ” he added, reminding me he is also an Academy member.
As for the Academy’s response to the initial ASC statement, he feels frustration and speaks for all the members.
“We feel totally left out in the cold because we are facing a behemoth that seems to make decisions based on some archaic process that I don’t think passes the rules of democracy these days — that’s the larger frustration here that people have,” he said. He told me the anonymous cinematographers who started this open letter in the first place are in the process of releasing a statement (UPDATE: they have done so, here) with their response to the Academy’s response to their initiative to stop this idea in its tracks.