Set Decorators Group “Infuriated” By Oscar Plan To Trim Categories From Telecast

The plan by Oscars organizers to trim eight categories from being presented live onstage during next month’s telecast has raised the ire of the Set Decorators Society of America, the latest Hollywood group decrying the moves.

The SDSA sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last week protesting the plan, which would see the Production Design, Documentary Short, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Animated Short, Live Action Short and Sound categories awarded in a pre-show event that would then be weaved in afterward to the main ceremony, which is set for March 27 at the Dolby Theater at Hollywood & Highland.

The Production Design Oscar goes to a production designer and a set decorator, the latter in the SDSA’s purview.

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The SDSA, in a letter sent Friday to Academy president David Rubin, CEO Dawn Hudson, the AMPAS Board Executive Committee and the AMPAS Awards Committee, called the the plan “a tremendous blow to the ideal of equality among the Academy’s branches.”

“The diminution of these specific awards, which you declare to be ‘the fat in need of trimming’ from the broadcast in order to make it more entertaining, is punitive not only to the individual artists singled out for this treatment, but to entire industries represented by each one, who take enormous pride in their part in the creation of each nominated and winning film in the Academy competition,” wrote SDSA president Gene Serdena, board chairman Chase Helzer and executive director Gene Cane. “We are all diminished by this action, and infuriated by it.” (Read the full letter below.)

The Academy has said that none of the 23 categories is coming off the telecast in the new format, in which the presentation of the select categories will be recorded immediately before the start of the live ABC broadcast in front of the full Dolby audience. They then would be edited and rolled seamlessly into the main show.

That plan, which the Academy is employing in an attempt to streamline the ceremony and boost flagging TV ratings, has been criticized by the likes of the American Cinema Editors, the Motion Picture Editors Guild, the Cinema Audio Society and the Art Directors Guild, the latter of which reps Production Designers.

Here’s the full SDSA letter made public Monday:

Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences
David Rubin, President
Dawn Hudson, CEO
AMPAS Board Executive Committee
AMPAS Awards Committee

In a climate of great cultural and political division, the Academy has elected to demote eight branches from equal recognition at the Academy Awards: Production Design, Documentary Short, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Score, Animated Short, Live Action Short, and Sound. The SDSA takes this as a tremendous blow to the ideal of equality among the Academy’s branches. The Oscar for Outstanding Production Design is presented to the Production Designer and Set Decorator.

The diminution of these specific awards, which you declare to be “the fat in need of trimming” from the broadcast in order to make it more entertaining, is punitive not only to the individual artists singled out for this treatment, but to entire industries represented by each one, who take enormous pride in their part in the creation of each nominated and winning film in the Academy competition. We are all diminished by this action, and infuriated by it.

The demotion of the Academy Award for Production Design in the eyes of the world and among our peers in the workplace is a material blow and an unnecessary one. The Academy has been the gold standard of fostering collaboration among the arts of filmmaking. But by this action you are sowing divisiveness: anyone looking at the list of those demoted to the prerecorded portion of the broadcast can only react with strong dismay at the lack of respect given to these art forms.

The relegation of certain film crafts to a lesser tier feels like confirmation of a bias antithetical to the spirit traditionally honored by the Academy.

One of the great events preceding the Awards Ceremony is the Oscars Luncheon, where the nominees are gathered in blended groups at their tables. Costume Designers sit side-by-side with Supporting Actor Nominees and Sound Mixers. A Set Decorator passes bread to a Director, who clinks glasses with a Special Effects Supervisor. And finally comes the class photo: all the nominees are called out one-by-one, and summoned to the dais, where they stand together in great equanimity and pride. This event sets a tone of generosity and fraternity that carries over to the Awards Ceremony. It is a glorious celebration of professional achievement and unity. It is this spirit that feels diminished by the recent announcement.

The Set Decorators Society of America expresses its extreme disappointment with this decision. We hope a different avenue can be found to maintain the audience’s interest, and one which truly celebrates the art of film making and holds to the true values of the Academy.

Sincerely,

Gene Serdena, SDSA President
Chase Helzer, SDSA Board Chairman
Gene Cane, SDSA Executive Director

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