The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced updated rules and regulations in how contending movies can be promoted and marketed to members, but other than a specific addition to rules concerning the music branch, there wasn’t much new in the announcement except a tweak here and there. Publicists and Academy consultants were invited to a meeting earlier this month led by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and marketing head Christina Kounelias. As is the case each year following Oscar season, they are given the opportunity to offer feedback on the rules and serve up any improvements that might be needed. But the only real change came about because of the controversy over the Best Song nomination for the obscure, then-unknown “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the film of the same title (which finally was released to theaters this month). As first reported on Deadline just hours after nominations were announced, Former Academy Governor and Music Branch head Bruce Broughton had contacted several members of the branch via email to urge them to give consideration to the song he co-wrote with lyricist Dennis Spiegel. This ran afoul of accepted Oscar campaigning behavior and raised eyebrows within — and outside of — the branch. It led to a near-unprecedented disqualification of the song, despite vigorous protests from Broughton, who previously had hired a music publicist to help with his grass roots campaign before deciding to contact members (at least 70) on his own. Because of his insider connections in the Academy it appeared he had an unfair advantage over other contenders (“Let It Go” from Frozen was the eventual winner). In an obvious, and inevitable, reaction to this, the Academy has now decided to spell out this new rule very clearly:
EXCLUSIVE: Bruce Broughton speaks. The composer and former Academy Music Branch governor, whose title song from Alone Yet Not Alone received an Oscar nom but later was disqualified because of improper campaigning following an expose written by our Awards Columnist Pete Hammond, has written a letter for Deadline. In it he explains his side and calls for reforms in a current system he feels makes it impossible for smaller films to compete with the star-studded songs that now fill studio Oscar-season movies. Broughton was said to have used his position and familiarity with voters to give a listen to a song from an obscure movie and it shocked everyone when it got a nom over much higher-profile tunes in movies people actually heard of. We were pretty tough on Broughton — this was the most significant blemish on the Academy during a relatively clean, wide-open race that ends Sunday — but he has asked to speak his piece and so we are allowing him to do so. To Broughton, there are flaws in the system that need to be addressed. Deadline readers can decide whether his explanation charts or not.
The recent rescinding of the Oscar® nomination for Best Song in this year’s Academy Awards contest draws attention to a major problem in the Academy’s campaign methodology. The nomination was rescinded by the Motion Picture Academy’s board of governors because it was felt that I, the composer (Dennis Spiegel was the lyricist of the song), had abused my position as a former Academy governor and present member of the Music Branch Executive Board by writing an email to about 70 persons drawing their attention to the song that was included on a DVD that contained all of the 75 eligible songs in three-minute clips from their films. The song list was anonymous; no songwriter names were included. It was alleged by the press that I had “played the system” by using my position to somehow get people to vote for my song. The Academy, in a statement about the board’s action, said that my emails, by identifying the song, had “called into question whether the process was ‘fair and equitable,’” and said it was dedicated to insuring a “level playing field for all Oscar® contenders.”
Although I admitted to writing the emails and pointing out the song, I did not ask anyone to vote for the song, nor did I promote the film. Neither did I make any phone calls. These are forbidden by Academy rules: an email “may not extol the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual.” But there are no restrictions on writing the email. None. There is nothing in the rules to discourage an erstwhile governor or any member from indulging in some promotion. The major studios and many independents send out DVD screeners of their films which list all of the eligible contestants on the jacket – including the songwriters – and follow up with invitations to screenings, meet-‘n-greets, sometimes including a fully produced, non-film version CD of the song, something that is disallowed by Academy rules. When major studios “campaign,” there’s no way a small independent can adequately compete. And there’s nothing anonymous about any of it.
OSCARS: ‘Frozen’ Brings Its Best Song Contender To The Concert Stage While Rescinded Nominee ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Still Won’t ‘Let It Go’
“There’s not one single Academy member invited to this event tonight,” a Disney executive proudly told me before the studio’s live concert of the music from their smash animated Oscar contender Frozen began Sunday evening at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Jazz Club in L.A. Now that’s not normally the kind of thing you hear during awards season. Usually studios beg and cajole Oscar voters to show up to these kinds of things. For instance, Disney staged another memorable musical event in December for Saving Mr. Banks with a concert by Mary Poppins composer Richard M. Sherman at the Polo Lounge. That one was crawling with invited Academy members. But that also took place before nominations. Much stricter AMPAS guidelines for campaigning after nominations are announced mean all these kinds of events, lunches, parties, meet-and-greets with contenders, etc., are verboten, and a violation of those guidelines can mean loss of tickets or stronger repercussions from the Academy.
So this special evening was limited to Disney execs, Frozen creatives like directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho, composer Christophe Beck, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and executive producer and Disney Animation chief John Lasseter along with the press. Lots of press who can spread the word about the phenomenal success of Frozen just a few days before those ballots go into the mail to Oscar voters who — did I say this? – weren’t invited.
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond talks with host David Bloom about which films and performers got an Oscar bump out of the WGA, Annie and Cinematographers awards shows this past Saturday; check in on the Santa Barbara film festival’s celebration of Cate Blanchett and whether the controversy over her Blue Jasmine director in will spill over into the Oscar race; dissect the Academy’s defense of its de-nomination of “Alone Yet Not Alone” in the face of complaints by, particularly, religious and conservative critics; and discuss the highlights of Pete’s sit-down with Julia Roberts this week to discuss her supporting actress Oscar nomination for “August: Osage County.”
We’ll also get Pete’s take on the week’s notable movie debuts, including the true and likable WWII story The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney with a big-name cast, and The Lego Movie, a fast-moving and smart animated film that Pete suggests could be in the Oscar hunt a year from now.
OSCARS SCANDAL: ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ Writer Calls Out Academy President For What He Says Is “Breach Of The Same Standard”
Bruce Broughton is hitting back. The composer, whose title song from Alone Yet Not Alone received an Oscar nom but later was disqualified because of improper campaigning, penned a letter Thursday to Academy Director of Communications Teni Melidonian and CEO Dawn Hudson. And today — hours after the Academy issued its latest statement on the matter — Broughton’s PR guy Ray Costa made it an open letter.
Broughton calls attention to Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs‘ role as a head of CBI Enterprises. As stated in her bio on the Oscars website, which was part of the press release the Academy sent out announcing her election in July, she served as a consultant on films including eventual Best Picture winners The Artist and The King’s Speech.
Safe to say this probably won’t be the last we hear of this.
Here’s the full letter:
Wonder why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to take the unusual step on a Super Bowl Saturday to “clarify” its decision Wednesday to rescind the Best Song nomination of the controversial Alone Yet Not Alone from the yet-to-be-released (now they are saying early summer) faith-based movie of the same name? Since the decision was announced, there has been blowback regarding the true intent of the Academy’s decision — particularly in a letter to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs from Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen (Schindler’s List) who was also an executive producer of the controversial documentary 2016: Obama’s America, a high-grossing documentary that became a lightning rod in the last Presidential campaign and a darling of right-wing critics of President Obama.
In the letter, Molen accuses the Academy of bias: “Many will see this decision as faith-based bigotry pure and simple,” he wrote in defending songwriter Bruce Broughton‘s right to the kind of grass roots campaign he conducted in order to get the unknown film a nomination against stiff competition from the likes of Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Lana Del Rey — none of whom made the cut. In order to stem further bleeding — particularly in becoming a target of right-wing blogs — I believe the Academy decided to curb any further damage or controversy the decision seems to be causing. In today’s detailed statement (read it below) it even gets very specific and states that Broughton sent “at least 70″ emails to fellow Music Branch members (the entire branch numbers 240). AMPAS explains that coming from a former governor and current member of the Branch’s Executive Committee, he could be rightly suspected of taking advantage of his insider status in gaming the system (my term, not the Academy’s). The original statement Wednesday was much more polite in using the phrase “no matter how well intentioned” Broughton’s efforts might have been. This letter today is far more damning and much more specific in explaining Academy rules. There has been no indication the Academy plans to take any further action on the matter, but it certainly isn’t bowing down to critics who are saying it made a mistake in deep-sixing the song. Here’s today’s statement:
What’s next Oscar, a Best Actress nomination for Pia Zadora? After Deadline Hollywood uncovered the story behind a bizarre Oscar nomination for a little-heard song in an unseen film that was curiously written by a former Academy Governor and head of the music branch, the Academy took the highly unusual step today of disallowing the tune from Oscar consideration.
OSCARS: How Academy’s Most Obscure Nominee – Maybe EVER – Managed To Beat Out Taylor Swift, Coldplay And Celine Dion: Video
The nominees for Best Song which mostly went to expected contenders like U2 for Mandela‘s “Ordinary Love”, Pharrell Williams for Despicable Me 2‘s “Happy”, Frozen‘s “Let It Go” from the writers of Book Of Mormon, and Karen O and Spike Jonze for “The Moon Song” from Her. But it was the first title read off by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs that really raised eyebrows. “Alone Yet Not Alone” from, you guessed it, Alone Yet Not Alone with music by Bruce Broughton and lyrics by Dennis Spiegel. (You can hear it in a clip at the bottom).Has anyone actually heard of this film? Or the song which is a musically low key , quite spiritual hymn (hear it below). Probably not. Certainly not Taylor Swift or Coldplay or Celine Dion or Lana Del Rey who were among the artists in contention for a nomination this year but lost out to this. Somehow it snuck in and completed a 7-day qualifying run in September, but, according to the website for the movie, its national release won’t happen until March 14th. It is a Christian film or “faith based” as they are known now. There isn’t a single review of the movie on Rotten Tomatoes (a first for any Oscar-nominated movie in memory). The distributor is listed as Enthuse Entertainment. IMDB describes it as …