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OSCARS: ‘Life Of Pi’ VFX Winner Played Off While Thanking Bankrupt Rhythm & Hues

By | Sunday February 24, 2013 @ 9:13pm PST

Oscars Ang LeeUPDATE, 9:50 PM: After winning the Oscar for Best Director, Ang Lee addressed the financial woes that struck his Life Of Pi VFX collaborators at Rhythm & Hues. “It’s bad news that visual effects are too expensive and I’m aware of Rhythm & Hues’ (situation)”, he said, noting that VFX artists are “more than just technicians”.

PREVIOUSLY, 9:13 PM: The Jaws theme struck less than a minute into VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer’s Life Of Pi Oscar acceptance speech. The ominous play-off tune played for a full 20 seconds as Westenhofer thanked director Ang Lee and began addressing the crisis plaguing the VFX industry. Poor Westenhofer was just starting to acknowledge the recently bankrupted Rhythm & Hues VFX studio, whose employees staged a protest at Hollywood and Vine earlier in the day that gathered over 400 marchers. “Sadly, Rhythm & Hues is suffering severe financial difficulties right now”, he managed to spit out before becoming the first winner of the 85th Academy Awards interrupted by play-off music. (Meanwhile, Best Documentary Oscar winner Malik Bendjelloul got the Jaws hook, too.)
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VFX Pros To Stage Oscar Protest

By | Friday February 22, 2013 @ 4:04pm PST

The VFX workers who made Visual Effects Oscar front-runner Life Of Pi possible are planning a two-fronted protest for Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards. A group of past and present employees of Rhythm & Hues, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, has commissioned a plane to fly a banner over the Oscar red carpet that will read “BOXOFFICE + BANKRUPT = VISUAL EFFECTS VFXUNION.COM”. Organizer Dave Rand, a Senior FX Artist at Rhythm & Hues, tells Deadline protesters plan on gathering at the Compton airport prior to the plane’s departure and also at a secondary location near the Dolby Theatre, possibly at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The banner is scheduled to fly over the pre-show red carpet between 3:30 PM and 4:30 PM. “We’re tired of paying for the studios’ movies, our employers paying for the studios’ movies, and foreign tax payers paying for the studios’ movies”, Rand told Deadline. “It’s the greatest con of the entertainment industry”.

Related: Rhythm & Hues Confirms Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing

The VFX protesters pooled together cash to pay for Sunday’s banner fly-over even though many haven’t received paychecks for over a month for ongoing work on Rhythm & Hues’ tentpole projects. With the support of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) the group seeks to shine a spotlight on their situation by bringing awareness to A-list red carpetgoers and … Read More »

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Oscar Voting Deadlines Loom – Friday Cutoff For Requesting Paper Ballot; Academy Says New Electronic Voting Registration Process “Going Well”

By | Wednesday November 28, 2012 @ 4:37pm PST
Pete Hammond

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ brave new steps into electronic voting for Oscars after 84 years of the snail mail routine is proceeding well. Most members seem to be getting the message that they must register to vote, as well as pay dues, before they will be eligible when balloting officially begins on December 17th and runs through January 3rd. That is 10 days earlier than last year and smack in the middle of the holiday season so naturally the Academy was a little nervous when they decided to launch this process four months ago. But I’m told things are going smoothly and they have their fingers crossed it will continue that way. “The response has been really favorable. We are very encouraged,” Academy COO Ric Robertson told me this afternoon, adding that most members are going for the electronic voting option but that there have been a “small number” of requests so far for the old fashioned paper ballots. One member though who is working on a major Best Picture contender told me they have heard from numerous other members saying they were requesting a paper ballot (“although they were all 60 and above”).  The Academy  will provide paper ballots as long as Oscar voters make that request by this Friday November 30. If members desiring traditional paper ballots have not registered to vote and made their request by Friday, they will not be able to participate using that method. Think of it as registering to vote for President. After the cut-off date you’re out of luck. Electronic voting registration however will remain open throughout the entire process ending on January 3rd so there’s another clear advantage for the onliners. Read More »

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Academy President Hawk Koch Reveals Why He Chose Oscar Producers, Says They May “Speed Up” Presentations

By | Friday August 24, 2012 @ 2:09pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Hawk Koch has not even been President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a month yet but he’s already got his producers lined up for the Oscars -  no small feat considering the awkward attempt to put a producer and even a host  in place (widely reported to be Lorne Michaels and Jimmy Fallon) before he even got elected on July 31st. Koch always told me, on the record and off, that as far as he was concerned his first priority was to get a producer(s) hired and none of the media speculation about who it would be or how it was being done was going to affect that goal. He just forged ahead. And he said it was always going to be his decision, at least from the moment he got elected. And as he told me when we spoke Thursday evening that’s exactly how it has turned out with yesterday’s well-received announcement of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as this year’s Oscarcast producers.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but I have only been on the job for three weeks or so”, he said. “But about a week and a half ago it suddenly hit me at 2 AM in the morning. Neil and Craig! They’ve done movies, Broadway, TV, they have great taste and they’d be great to work with. They are real producers”.

Related: In Craig Zadan And Neil Meron, Oscarcast Gets Stability In Long-Running Team

The latter point  is particularly important to Koch who, in order to do the one term Academy gig, has taken a leave of absence from his post as Co-President of the Producers Guild. So after his brainstorm he called a mutual friend and ran the idea past him, getting a very enthusiastic agreement that this was the perfect team for the job. When he called Zadan to inquire as to whether they might be interested in producing the Oscars if such a role was offered he says Zadan didn’t hesitate a moment and  responded ‘yes’ immediately . “That really surprised me since usually it takes a lot longer to  get your choice to agree or they are too busy, not this time though. Craig and Neil are busy but Craig said producing the Oscars was at the very top of their own bucket list,” (the pair produced Rob Reiner’s movie The Bucket List). Read More »

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Hawk Koch Interview: Top Priorities For New Academy President Are Oscar Show & Movie Museum

By | Wednesday August 1, 2012 @ 12:59pm PDT
Pete Hammond

FINKE: Behind-The-Scenes Of Hawk Koch’s Academy Win
Hawk Koch Takes Leave Of Absence As PGA President

With his election last night as the new President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Hawk Koch is not wasting any time getting into the job. Because this is his ninth year on the Board Of Governors, he can only serve one year as President before he is termed out. With only a year to accomplish his goals, Koch sounded like a man who has just hit the ground running but it doesn’t sound like he is going to spark a revolution in the way things are being run. As he sat in his office this morning, he detailed for me a list of priorities starting with the task of getting a producer and host for the 85th Oscar show, fundraising for the planned Academy museum (in association with the Los County Museum Of Art), and expanding educational efforts  to promote Academy activities other than the main awards. He also reiterated support for the expansion of nominees in the Best Picture category, keeping the Honorary Governors Awards the way they are now, and expressing strong support for Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. Here’s the interview.

Deadline: You made no secret that you wanted this job and now you have it for the next year.
Hawk Koch:  I’m on top of the world. … Read More »

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OSCARS: Rule Changes Missed Opportunities To Fix Song, Foreign-Language Categories

Pete Hammond

With today’s press release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences regarding their annual review of rules — these affecting the upcoming 85th Academy Awards in February — the only thing “newsy” was how little news there was. It is almost like status quo. That is not to say the Academy should not have made some real changes but apparently they have missed their opportunity to right some wrongs, at least for now.

Related: Oscar: New Rules Affect Music, Foreign Language, Makeup, Visual Effects Categories

One of the biggest controversies coming out of last year’s Oscar nominations  was in the music branch where due to a ridiculous rule original songs must achieve an unrealistic voting standard of an overall 8.5 score that only two (“Real In Rio” from Rio and eventual winner ”Man Or Muppet” from The Muppets) managed to meet, leaving a number of major contenders including deserving songs from big names like Mary J. Blige and Elton John out in the cold. Many branch members and former nominees like Diane Warren loudly complained and branch executives indicated they would look into the matter. However with today’s rules announcement the only tweak involving Best Song is that a fourth songwriter is now eligible to compete for an individual tune in “rare and extraordinary” circumstances. Since 2005 only two songwriters have been eligible per song with a third considered in “rare” instances. There was absolutely no mention about a much needed overhaul of the needlessly complicated numeric voting system that … Read More »

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