By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 4, 2013 at 4:16PM
New Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Hawk Koch has wasted no time making his mark on AMPAS during his one-year term.
He's encouraged putting through various rule changes. For the first time ever, the Academy Governors have approved a plan to allow all voting members to vote in all 24 categories, Koch told a Saturday meeting of the Academy’s members in Beverly Hills. (Other simultaneous meetings were held in New York and Emeryville, CA.) Now they can view the nominated documentary shorts and foreign language films either at a theatrical screening or on DVD. He assured members that the nomination process for all categories remains unchanged.
These changes, which were reviewed by individual branch and
category committees and the Awards Rules Committee before presenting its recommendations to the Board of
Governors for approval, was long overdue and much-discussed over the past year.
Last year's doc branch change, which involved sending screeners to the entire branch, instead of breaking the films up into committees, as well as the last-minute change allowing the voters to see documentary features and live action and animated shorts on screeners, was considered a success.
Why should foreign films and documentary shorts --which until now demanded that Academy voters sign in to prove that they had seen the films in a screening room--not follow their lead? The rule change dictates that prior to the final round of voting, the Academy will provide members with DVDs of the nominated films in five categories: Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short Film, and Live Action Short Film.
This will widely expand the number of people who can vote on the films. And ushers in a simplified viewing process, especially for foreign film, which has been pretzel-twisted into various committee nominating processes that still demand an overhaul. Not surprisingly, some foreign film distributors --most notably Sony Pictures Classics--are not happy about this, because they have become accustomed to working the system. This change will favor, as it did with the docs, movies that get out and build support earlier in the year, rather than waiting for the late pre-nominations corridor. The old foreign film process made it possible for films that were seen by very few members to win. That is no longer the case.
“This change continues our efforts to expand our members’ participation in all aspects of the Academy’s activities including, of course, voting for the Oscars,” said Koch. “Building on this past season’s 90% record voter turnout, we want to give our members as many opportunities as possible to see these great films and vote in these categories next year.”
The membership meeting appears to have succeeded as an Academy public relations outreach to its members, who are the organization's "backbone," said AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson. Academy execs consider the electronic voting a success, but will continue to offer paper ballots during the next awards season. And best picture Oscar rules allowing from five to ten nominees will also continue.
The Oscar telecast takes place on March 2, 2014.