Banned Iranian Filmmaker Jafar Panahi Thanks Academy For Its Invitation To Join

Jafar Panahi was among the 276 people invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 28. The award-winning director of such films as The White Balloon, The Circle, … Read More »

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Analysis: Did The Academy Just Get A Lot More Diverse?

Pete Hammond

With 276 membership invitations going out today — exactly 100 more new members than were invited to join the elite 6000+ organization last year — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has clearly begun to live up to its goal of being more inclusive. And not only in increasing its numbers but also in the group’s stated goal of increasing diversity. One person I spoke with today who was involved in the selection of new members from their branch was worried that the Academy might be drifting into affirmative action territory and cutting out more deserving applicants. But outgoing Academy president Hawk Koch was thrilled with the results of the initiative, which was approved at a Board of Governors meeting last October. It’s one he personally lobbied for with every peer group as they considered applications for membership to their individual branches.

Related: Academy Membership Quotas Dissolved: Does It Mean Anything?

When we spoke this morning, Koch said it was “mission accomplished” but added that along with diversity he emphasized qualifications. “I did say along with that our criteria doesn’t change: They still have to be the best of the best, just be aware of diversity”, he said. “I am very excited that we have such a talented and diverse group of artists and filmmakers. It’s like everything else I have tried to do this year. We are moving forward. We are more inclusive and are cultivating the next generation, and that’s what we need to do”. Read More »

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Why Was Ex-Soft Porn Filmmaker Recently Hired As Movie Academy Senior Executive?

By | Wednesday June 19, 2013 @ 3:39pm PDT

EXCLUSIVE: There was no press release announcing his hiring this February. And his official bio doesn’t mention his VHS titles like Playboy: The Best of Anna Nicole Smith. But it’s certainly surprising that Vicangelo Bulluck who’s currently the Managing Director for the new position of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives at the prestigious Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences used to be a soft porn producer, director, and writer. It’s especially shocking to the various Academy Governors with whom I spoke and who told me they didn’t know anything about his background. His AMPAS hiring coincided with the Academy’s big push spearheaded by CEO Dawn Hudson to focus more on diversity inside and outside the organization and for membership. AMPAS could not provide me with a description of Bulluck’s current job but he is listed high up on the roster of Academy administration in 6th place of importance. An AMPAS executive who asked not to be identified insisted to me that Bulluck’s soft porn past did not come as a surprise to the Academy and said, “We knew this when he was hired. It absolutely gave people pause. But he had enough recent references and great relationships. Besides, he was doing that producing 20 years ago. He was a struggling filmmaker.”

But I’ve learned from insiders that Bulluck prominently displayed his previous non-profit job as Executive Director of the Hollywood Bureau of the NAACP on the impressive resume he submitted to the Academy at the NAACP, but he deliberately left off his 10-year soft porn credits. ”And when concerned female employees brought this issue to management, they confronted him,” a source tells me. “He said, ‘If it was OK with the NAACP, I thought it’d be OK with you.’ Did he get fired for withholding info on his resume? No. Now there’s a porn producer at the Academy!” I’m told that, when Kimberly Congdon, the Managing Director of Human Resources at AMPAS, was asked why she didn’t simply search IMDB for Bulluck’s credits before he was hired, she replied, “What’s the IMDB?”

Indeed, a search of IMDB for Bulluck’s credits show a prolific list of soft porn VHS titles ranging in dates from 1992 through 2000 and including Playboy: Sisters, Playboy: The Best of Anna Nicole Smith, Playboy: The Best of Jenny McCarthy, Playboy: The Best of Pamela AndersonPlayboy Girls of Radio: Talk, Rock and Shock, Playboy: Fabulous Forties, Playboy: Women of Color and Playboy’s Playmate Bloopers. There’s also a director credit for a 1996 Playboy Home Video sexploitation film called Jane Street. Bulluck by all accounts was good at his craft: Read More »

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Inside AMPAS Board Of Governors’ Meeting: Conflict Of Interest & Latino Damage Control (Joke About Being “Old White Guy Club”)

EXCLUSIVE: Few things in Hollywood are more secret than the Board Of Governors meetings of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In fact, an insider tells me that, at one of the most recent conclaves, AMPAS President Hawk Koch ”went around the room asking if ‘anybody is friends with Nikki Finke?’ before beginning.” (Related: Hey, Academy, I Was Hiding Under The Rug) So let me tell you what was discussed at a recent session:

– Governors argued pro and con instituting a so-called ‘conflict of interest’ clause for themselves. At the present time, they do not have one. “This was specifically related to Academy Board Members receiving lucrative contracts from the Academy for things like behind-the-scenes footage, Oscars documentaries, etc. And they’re having first dibs on these contracts,” my insider tells me, clarifying, “The argument for adding a conflict of interest clause was that ‘it looks bad that we don’t have one’ and ’would be bad publicity if it got out’. The argument against a conflict of interest clause was this: that although it may look bad, every member on the board is talented and should be allowed to work for the Academy if the Academy deems them worthy and fit to do so.” The suggested solution was allowing governors to take a leave of absence from the board to work on projects which the Academy directly underwrites. I’m told one Governor in particular is shooting a behind-the-Oscars TV documentary for the Turner Classic Movies cable channel to air during the next awards season “and the board unanimously voted to allow him to be grandfathered in,” according to my source. No final decision was made.

– Governors at the board meeting discussed the failure by the 2013 Academy Awards’ In Memoriam segment to mention prominent Latina actress Lupe Ontiveros and how that snub ”may have damaged their appeal to Latin Americans,” my insider says. The governors decided ”that they need to reach out to minorities more often. And they joked about the Academy being an old white guy club and how that appears to other demographics.” Outrage erupted after the Mexican-American star with a career spanning four decades in movies/TV died in July at age 69 but was omitted from the tribute sequence. Latino viewers took their protests to Twitter and an open letter addressed to the Academy was written by Alex NogalesCEO/president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. He noted that Ontiveros had applied for AMPAS membership and been denied, despite the support of Miguel Sandoval and Edward James Olmos. In April, members of the National Latino Media Council met with AMPAS bigwigs to discuss the dustup and find ways to increase Latino representation among Academy membership. Ontiveros is best known for Selena, As Good As It Gets, Real Women Have Curves and The Goonies but she made hundreds of films and TV shows.

– The Governors also debated allowing other mediums to be nominated for Academy Awards, not just theatrical releases but also New Media films. Michael Moore, who’s on the AMPAS Board, strenuously objected. He held up his iPhone and said, “If I’m watching Spartacus on this, I’m watching something. But it’s not a movie. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s not a movie.” Moore did suggest the Academy create a fund to financially help small market theaters Read More »

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Academy Science And Technology Council Names 2013 Interns

By | Wednesday June 19, 2013 @ 10:15am PDT

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Science and Technology Council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected five students to participate in its 2013 summer internship program, with placements at the Tech Council, Dolby Laboratories, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios. The only one of its kind, the Academy-sponsored program is designed to nurture the next generation of motion picture technologists by providing real-world experience to students interested in careers in motion picture technology and scientific research.

The 2013 Science and Technology Council summer interns and their internship hosts are:

Victor Mateevitsi, University of Illinois at Chicago – Pixar Animation Studios

Ritvik Menon, University of Pennsylvania – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Jaclyn Pytlarz, Rochester Institute of Technology – Science and Technology Council

Wei Wang, Texas A&M University – Pixar Animation Studios

Xi Xu, University of Illinois at Chicago – Dolby Laboratories

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Student Academy Awards Winners Honored

By | Saturday June 8, 2013 @ 9:15pm PDT

Beverly Hills, CA — Sixteen students from colleges and universities around the world were honored tonight as winners at the 40th Student Academy Awards ceremony at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The medal placements were announced at the ceremony hosted by writer-director and 1978 Student Academy Award® winner Bob Saget. Writer-director Kimberly Peirce and actors Clark Gregg, Jason Schwartzman and Quvenzhané Wallis presented the awards.

The winners are:

Gold Medal: “Bottled Up,” Rafael Cortina, Occidental College
Silver Medal: “Zug,” Perry Janes, University of Michigan
Bronze Medal: “The Compositor,” John Mattiuzzi, School of Visual Arts

Gold Medal: “Dia de los Muertos,” Lindsey St. Pierre and Ashley Graham, Ringling College of Art and Design
Silver Medal: “Will,” Eusong Lee, California Institute of the Arts
Bronze Medal: “Peck Pocketed,” Kevin Herron, Ringling College of Art and Design

Gold Medal: “A Second Chance,” David Aristizabal, University of Southern California
Silver Medal: “Every Tuesday: A Portrait of The New Yorker Cartoonists,” Rachel Loube, School of Visual Arts
Bronze Medal: “Win or Lose,” Daniel Koehler, Elon University

Read More »

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Hey, Academy, I Was Hiding Under The Rug

An insider tells me that, at the most recent and always secret Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences‘ Board Of Governors meeting, president Hawk Koch ”went around the room asking if ‘anybody is friends with Nikki Finke?’ before beginning”. Gotta say, Hawk made my day.

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Ric Robertson Taking Paid Summer Hiatus From Movie Academy In Financial Crunch

EXCLUSIVE: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences COO Ric Robertson is  taking what’s being internally Ric Robertson paid leave AMPAScalled a “sabbatical” from June through August. I have learned this is an unusual paid leave even though the Academy is complaining about a financial crunch. Normally, its staff are restricted to 30 days of unpaid leave (and then only with approval). “He has worked here for 31 years. Doesn’t he deserve it?” an insider told me. “He didn’t tell us what he’ll do. Maybe work on his golf game.” Robertson’s upcoming sabbatical has prompted AMPAS staff to wonder whether he will be pushed out and/or look for another job. In April 2011, he was passed over for Bruce Davis’ executive directorship and now reports to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson, who was brought in over him. Insiders tell me that Robertson was primarily responsible for this year’s online voting debacle, which Hudson dumped in his lap when the Academy finally decided to implement Oscar balloting electronically — something Robertson and Davis resisted for prior years. (Grumbles one insider: “Dawn gives him anything messy that she doesn’t want to deal with or anything that means a lot of real work or anything that has a potential for failure, like the electronic voting.”) Read More »

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Academy Meeting A Hit Say Hudson, Hawk – But What Did Members Think?

Pete Hammond

Today’s first-ever Academy membership meeting was deemed a success by both Acad President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson, as well as a random sampling of several members with whom I spoke immediately following. Certainly the turnout was stellar with the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre (which has about 1000 seats) nearly full with members only (no guests) which Koch told me was the first time since it was built that the audience was near-SRO with only Academy members. Koch says New York and Bay Area venues were also well-attended which bodes well for continuing this as an annual event. “On a scale from one to ten, I give it a twelve”, said Koch who according to several attendees I talked to got lots of plaudits from those who asked questions in the audience. ”We’ll hear from our members. But in that room there was a lot of love for this event. I don’t think there has ever been an occasion where we just invited members. It was historic in that way. This kind of came out of the branch mixers we have done, and people asked about doing something cross-branches which was sort of the impetus for this meeting”, Hudson told me in a joint call with Koch shortly after the 12:35PM (PT) conclusion of the event. Read More »

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Academy Announces New Rule Changes At Membership Meeting; All Members Can Now Vote On Foreign Language Films

Pete Hammond

The Academy announced rule changes that will allow  all  members for the first time to vote in all 24 categories including Foreign Language and Documentary Shorts, either via theatrical screenings or DVD.  Previously members had to attend special screenings for … Read More »

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2013 Student Academy Awards Finalists

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Thirty-eight students from 17 U.S. colleges and universities as well as nine students from foreign universities have been selected as finalists in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Student Academy Awards competition. Winners will be brought to Los Angeles for a week of industry activities and social events that will culminate in the awards ceremony on Saturday, June 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The finalists are (listed alphabetically by film title):

“Beyond the Spheres,” Meghdad Asadi Lari, Rochester Institute of Technology
“Bottled Up,” Rafael Cortina, Occidental College
“Bye Hyungjik,” Hyungjik Lee, Florida State University
“The Compositor,” John Mattiuzzi, School of Visual Arts
“File Not Found,” Maria Sequeira, University of Southern California
“The Pirate of Love,” Sara Gunnarsdottir, California Institute of the Arts
“Zug,” Perry Janes, University of Michigan

Read More »

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Mike Myers & Dana Carvey Use Academy To Bury ‘Wayne’s World’ Hatchet

By | Tuesday April 23, 2013 @ 10:17pm PDT

AMPAS President Hawk Koch tonight used the Academy as a promo tool for the 1992 comedy which he exec produced 21 years ago. Wayne’s World has zero to do with prestigious Academy functions, but a rep told me similar screenings are in the works to attract a new audience to AMPAS. Tonight’s event sold out in 90 seconds at $5 a pop.

With Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels (who produced the pic) Koch wrangled stars Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, and director Penelope Spheeris to the event following years of tensions between the trio. In a pre-film panel at the Academy’s Wilshire theater, moderator Koch skirted the infamous squabbles surrounding the Wayne’s World shoot. Those include Myers’ reputed difficult on-set demands. And reports that he Myers and Carvey had fallen out after Myers lifted his Dr. Evil voice from Carvey. Spheeris meanwhile has accused Myers of vetoing her as the sequel’s director because she didn’t listen to his edit requests. (“‘I hated that bastard for years”, she said in a 2008 interview.) No questions were allowed from the at-capacity audience. And the panelists were explicitly instructed not to talk to press at the event. Read More »

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Oscars Producers: Hawk Koch’s Chutzpah Tops Even Tom Sherak’s

Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Hawk Koch broke today’s news naming its 86th Academy Awards producers — a rerun of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron – because I’d received a tip this morning and was … Read More »

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BREAKING: Academy Reruns Craig Zadan & Neil Meron As 86th Oscars Producers

BEVERLY HILLS, CA — The acclaimed motion picture, television and theater producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the Oscars for a second time next year, Academy President Hawk Koch announced. The

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Academy Gives Details Of Its May Membership Meeting

By | Thursday April 4, 2013 @ 1:03pm PDT
Pete Hammond

As reported here Sunday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is having an unprecedented membership meeting and sent out a save-the-date notice for Saturday, May 4th for Los Angeles-, New York- and Bay Area-based members to attend, have conversations and ask questions about “The Future Of Our Academy”. Today the official invite goes out (check it out below) and lifts the veil on exactly what topics will be covered and why the organization is attempting to do this. As Academy CEO Dawn Hudson explained to me this morning, it is an idea whose time has come. “It’s an idea that many members have talked about to me and to the board. The board has brought it up too. We just felt the time was right now. We talked about doing it I guess since last fall,” she said, adding that the Academy has been hosting individual branch get-togethers and, because of positive reaction, members told her they would like to do something across all branches. So this larger meeting idea was hatched.

Hudson said they needed to wait until the Oscars were over and that no subject is off the table. But on the invite highlighted topics include the new museum, programming, new collections, new technology and other areas like the controversial introduction to e-voting initiated for the first time this past Oscar season. “E-voting was quite successful and we will do a little recap for our members. But really this is to give an overview of what’s coming up in the future”, she said. “This is my mantra. It is what the Academy is doing the other 364 days of the year, and when you talk about those things directly it is quite impressive. Read More »

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Oscars: What Is The Academy’s Unprecedented Membership Meeting Really All About?

Pete Hammond

Speculation has been swirling this Easter holiday weekend in the media and among Academy types just exactly what the Save The Date for the “special event”  the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just sent out to their members (in an email from … Read More »

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R.I.P. Fay Kanin

By | Wednesday March 27, 2013 @ 6:12pm PDT

Fay Kanin, Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning screenwriter and former President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, died today at the age of 95. A New York native, Kanin began her showbiz career in the … Read More »

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Entry Deadlines For 2013 Student Academy Awards Approaching

By | Wednesday March 20, 2013 @ 2:45pm PDT

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The deadlines to submit entries for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2013 Student Academy Awards competition are Friday, March 22 (Foreign Film category), and Monday, April 1 (all other categories).

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AMPAS-Funded Projects Include Study On Studio Corporate Mergers

By | Tuesday March 19, 2013 @ 4:38pm PDT
Pete Hammond

With the 85th Oscars in the history books The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has gotten back to doing what it does the other 364 days of the year. The organization held its annual lunch Monday honoring the $25,000 … Read More »

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