ASC Protests Academy’s Decision on Cinematography Oscar Presentation


Roger Deakins receives the Oscar® for Blade Runner 2049

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and their president Kees Van Oostrum have protested Monday’s decision by AMPAS to present four Oscar categories, including Cinematography, during commercial breaks in the 91st Academy Awards’ telecast on 24th February.

The Academy on Monday announced that four Oscar categories, including cinematography and editing, would be presented during commercial breaks.

Responding to the Film Academy’s decision to present four Oscar categories — cinematography, film editing, live-action shorts and makeup and hairstyling — during commercial breaks at the 91st Oscars broadcast, the American Society of Cinematographers president Kees van Oostrum sent a letter to his 380 members in which he called the move “most unfortunate,” adding, “We cannot quietly condone this decision without protest.”

In his letter, van Oostrum argued, “We consider filmmaking to be a collaborative effort where the responsibilities of the director, cinematographer, editor and other crafts often intersect This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimizing our fundamental creative contributions.”

In an email to the Academy membership on Monday, Academy president John Bailey, who belongs to the cinematographers branch and is an ASC member, laid out the plan for this year’s show, which was initially announced last year but without details. He emphasized that the Academy is “still honoring the achievements of all 24 awards on the Oscars.” In the case of the four categories that will be announced during commercial breaks, the winners’ speeches will air later in the broadcast, he said. The plans call for there to be a rotation each year, meaning that at least four different categories would use this format in 2020.

Also on Monday, Roma‘s Alfonso Cuarón, who is nominated this year in the cinematography category, added his voice, tweeting, “In the history of CINEMA, masterpieces have existed without sound, without color, without a story, without actors and without music. No one single film has ever existed without CINEMAtography and without editing.”

Guillermo del Toro, director of last year’s best picture Oscar winner, The Shape of Water, tweeted, “I would not presume to suggest what categories should occur during commercials on Oscars night, but, please: Cinematography & Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical or literary tradition: they are cinema itself.”

Cuarón’s collaborator Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of GravityBirdman and The Revenant, had posted on his Instagram account: “Cinematography and editing are probably the ‘elementary particles,’ the primordial components of cinema. It’s an unfortunate decision.”

Gareth Ellis-Unwin, Head of Film and Animation for the skills charity ScreenSkills and the Academy Award-winning producer of The King’s Speech, said: “I will not now take up my right to cast my last round votes in this year’s Academy Awards as I think it is a damaging move not to recognise some of the roles that are critical to the filmmaking process. Cinematography, editing and make-up and hair are vital to the process yet are among the many jobs in the film industry that many people don’t know about. If we want to continue to recruit new talent into the industry, it is important to showcase all the opportunities available and not just the starry ones. This is particularly important if we are serious about creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”

 

The full text of van Oostrum’s letter to his fellow ASC members follows:

Dear members of the ASC,

Yesterday afternoon the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced that the Best Cinematography presentation — as well as the awards for Film Editing, Live-Action Short and Make-up and Hair Styling — would not be broadcast live but presented in a delayed and edited version during the televised Oscar ceremony. This decision was apparently made in order to shorten the length of the Academy Awards broadcast.

After receiving many comments on this matter from ASC members, I think I speak for many of them in declaring this a most unfortunate decision. We consider filmmaking to be a collaborative effort where the responsibilities of the director, cinematographer, editor and other crafts often intersect. This decision could be perceived as a separation and division of this creative process, thus minimizing our fundamental creative contributions.

The Academy is an important institution that represents our artistry in the eyes of the world. Since the organization’s inception 91 years ago, the Academy Awards have honored cinematographers’ talent, craft and contributions to the filmmaking process, but we cannot quietly condone this decision without protest.

Kees van Oostrum
ASC President

 

 

Issue 94 – July 2019

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