My Sundance activities have interfered with a timely awareness of some interesting reactions to the recently revised Academy rules that are basically about taking the vote away from older white members, or more precisely those who haven’t been “active” within the last decade, and increasing the membership roster among African Americans, Latinos and somewhat younger people. For the last four days The Hollywood Reporter has posted several reactions to this change, and a clear majority of the posts have been intensely negative.
Four reactions were posted yesterday (1.27) — three negatives written by actress Rutanya Alda, short film and feature animation committee member Nancy Beiman and visual-effects guy John Van Vliet, and a stand-alone positive from The Color Purple costar Margaret Avery.
Four previous essays were posted on 1.25 — three negatives from director’s branch member Stephen Verona, public relations branch member Mark Reina and writers branch member Stephen Geller; the only 1.25 positive was written by directors branch member Rod Lurie. Another negative response, written by documentary branch member Milton Justice, was posted on 1.24.
Six negatives and two positives obviously argues with an assertion from the Academy that responses to the membership and voting rules have been largely positive/favorable. Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg tells me that the essays were only partly solicited (some members got in touch on their own), and that the identities of the authors were carefully vetted.
The essay headlines include “Actors Are the Least Racist People I Have Ever Known,” “I’m No Longer Proud to Be a Member of This Organization”, “Oscar Voter Calls Diversity Efforts ‘A Momentary Appeasement of the Mob’“, “New Guidelines Are Taking Us in the Right Direction”, “Try Telling the NBA to Hire More White, Latino, Chinese or Eskimo Players“, “Diversity Change Insults All Its Members by Denying Their Elected Status”, “Diversity Push Is Ageist and ‘Insulting to Black People“, etc.
Renowned director-screenwriter Paul Schrader posted the following on Facebook: “Scott Feinberg asked me to write a letter to the Academy about the recent changes in voting eligibility. Representing the contrarian altecocker membership, I suppose. I in fact did compose such a letter but then thought better of it. I realized I didn’t care enough about the Oscars one way or another to involve myself in the Academy’s internecine squabbles.”