UPDATED with ASC open letter: Hollywood celebrated with statements and posts on social media today in the wake of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announcement that all awards presentations would be live on the February 24 Oscars broadcast.
That included Kees van Oostrum, the president of the American Society of Cinematographers, the group that launched the first signs of industry protest hosting an open letter from a quickly-growing group of signatories decrying the Academy’s plan to tighten the Oscarcast by presenting awards in four categories — Cinematography, Editing, Make-up & Hairstyling and Live-Action Shorts — during commercial breaks. The subsequent uproar led to the decision’s reversal today.
Here is Oostrom’s new, much happier open letter to the Academy that following today’s news, followed by other reactions as the news broke first on Deadline:
February 15, 2019
An Open Letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,
It is with great pride and respect that we write this letter commending the action of the Academy to reverse its decision and to move presentations of the Oscars for Cinematography, Live Action Short, Film Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling back into the main, live 91st Annual Academy Awards ceremony broadcast.
It was clear to us from the outset that the original decision was difficult, making your current direction that much more brave. We feel the founding mission of the Academy — to honor its members and the film community — is far better served when it continues to promote motion pictures as the collaborative art form that it is.
In exploring this issue we have all been reminded of an important distinction: The Academy Awards cannot become just be another televised celebrity showcase. Our prestigious Academy has a higher purpose and must stand apart from other organizations by equally recognizing the most outstanding artists and craftspeople in all categories.
We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy.
When the American Society of Cinematographers was formed 100 years ago — in 1919 by our 15 founding members — a core part of their mission was to elevate cinematographers from being considered as mere “technicians.” They wanted to be recognized for the collaborative artistry they brought to every production. Even today, a century later, this struggle for recognition is shared by everyone working in every department. The honor offered by the Academy Awards is vital to validating the claim that everyone contributing to the making of a motion picture is an artist.
This is evidenced by the initial group of cinematographers who drafted our original letter of response to the Academy’s plans and the hundreds of filmmakers who signed it.
The ASC looks forward to working closely with the Academy in a joint effort to help make the annual Academy Awards the entertaining and prestigious show that we know it can be!
Kees van Oostrum
Other reactions have been coming in from the impacted guilds and societies too, with the ASC saying earlier:
“We’re happy to report that there has been a change of heart at The Academy in regard to the upcoming Oscars presentation, in part due to ASC’s open letter of protest and the many motion-picture professionals who backed it.”
Others also weighed in:
“The Academy and ACE have always been in line, so I was never one bit worried,” said Jenni McCormick, executive director of the American Cinema Editors, which had joined the protest.
IATSE locals from across the state issued a statement thanking the Academy for coming to its senses.
“We applaud the Academy’s reversal of its decision to edit the presence of four categories in this year’s Oscar broadcast,” said a statement issued by the California IATSE Council. “We believe the continued recognition of the talents and artistic contributions of the cinematographer, editor, and the makeup artists and hairstylists are true to the Academy’s long history of honoring the best in filmmaking – whether that means the faces known to the public or the unknown faces of the men and women who work behind the camera but whose contribution to the film is equally valuable.
“Everyone who works in our industry knows that the making of a film is a collaboration of many people, all of whom bring their artistic skills, craft, and love of motion pictures to the end result. We are glad that the Oscar audience will see that reality next Sunday.”
The locals represented in the statement include:
IATSE Local 16 – San Francisco/Bay Area
IATSE Local 44 – Affiliated Property Craftsperson
IATSE Local 80 – Motion Picture Studio Grips, Crafts Services & First Aid IATSE Local 122 – Stage Hands
IATSE Local 504 – Orange County IATSE
Local 600 – International Cinematographers Guild
IATSE Local 695 – Production Sound/Video & Projection Engineers
IATSE Local 705 – Motion Picture Costumers IATSE
Local 706 – Make-Up Artists & Hairstylists Guild
IATSE Local 728 – Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians
IATSE Local 729 – Motion Picture Set Painters & Sign Writers
IATSE Local 800 – Art Directors Guild IATSE
Local 839 – The Animation Guild
IATSE Local 857 – Treasurers & Ticket Sellers
IATSE Local 871 – Script Supervisors/Continuity, Accountants & Allied Production Specialists
IATSE Local 884 – Motion Picture Studio Teachers & Welfare Workers
IATSE Local 892 – Costume Designers Guild
The online comments were equally triumphant: