Producer Michael Shamberg Sues Motion Picture Academy Over Failing To Vote On His Social Media Plan

Michael Shamberg
Clemens Niehaus/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Michael Shamberg, the producer whose credits include Erin Brockovich, Contagion, Get Shorty, The Big Chill and Pulp Fiction, has sued the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in an attempt to get the governing body to vote on his plan to boost its social media presence.

The civil suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, asking that the court impel AMPAS’ board of governors to vote on his proposal, arguing that it did not adhere to its own procedures when he asked it to amend its bylaws.

In April, Shamberg, an AMPAS member since 1981, shared with Deadline his open letter to the Academy community detailing “both a crisis of relevance and a financial crisis which threatens its survival,” noting the Oscar ratings’ all-time low this year. Saying “The Academy is an epic fail as a 21st century social media institution,” he suggested a multi-part strategy to reinvigorate interest in the organization among younger audiences.

He said at the time he “proposed that the Academy’s Mission Statement be updated to specifically mandate ‘state of the art social media’ and ‘an annual member survey.’ ” He said the board of governors refused to let members vote on his pitch to amend the bylaws to include the mandates.

According to the lawsuit (read it here), on March 10, Shamberg was allowed to argue in favor of the amendments at a board meeting, where he was given 10 minutes to make his case. He was asked to leave the room to allow the board to deliberate, and later heard it had decided not to bring the proposed amendments to a vote, which he says violated the Defendant’s compliance with the bylaws.

“On or about June 25, 2020, Plaintiff, through counsel, sent AMPAS a Demand for Corrective Action (the ‘Pre-Filing Demand’). Through the Pre-Filing Demand, Plaintiff outlined his grievances against the Organization and Board, outlined the claims he intended to pursue against the Organization and Board, and made a final attempt to have the Board do nothing more than simply hold a vote on his Amendments,” stated the lawsuit (read it here). It adds that “AMPAS’ response to the Pre-Filing Demand ignored Plaintiffs concerns and indicated that the Organization had no intent of taking any corrective action.”

The suit “requests declaratory and injunctive relief compelling the Organization to vote on Plaintiffs Amendments. Given the history between Plaintiff and the Board in regards to this dispute, and the Board’s bias toward Plaintiff, the Court should implement the second method of voting… by compelling all AMPAS members (not just the Board) to vote on Plaintiffs Amendments.”

Shamberg this spring ran for a Producers Branch seat on the board of governors. He lost out to eventual winner Lynette Howell Taylor, who is co-producing the 2021 Oscars.

Deadline has reached out to the Academy for a response. It previously responded to Shamberg’s open letter in the spring saying in part,  “The Academy’s bylaws specify the process required to adopt a bylaw amendment, however a proposed bylaw amendment can only be voted on when a motion to vote is made by a board member. Following his proposal, no governor felt it appropriate to make a motion to vote on an amendment, so none did.”

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