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Comedy Series Inspired By Openly Gay Soccer Player Robbie Rogers In Works At Universal TV With Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron

By | Monday July 14, 2014 @ 1:32pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Comedy Series Inspired By Openly Gay Soccer Player Robbie Rogers In Works At Universal TV With Producers Craig Zadan & Neil MeronEXCLUSIVE: The story of professional soccer player Robbie Rogers, who became the first openly gay man to compete in a top North American professional sports league, is headed to television. Universal Television has optioned Rogers’ story rights for Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s Storyline Entertainment to develop and produce a comedy series inspired by the young athlete’s experiences.

Rogers spent one season at the University of Maryland, helping the college team win an NCAA Championship. He quickly turned pro, joining the Dutch team Heerenveen. He then spent five seasons with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, winning the MLS Cup, and competed in the 2008 Olympics. Following a stint with English team Leeds United, on February 15, 2013, Rogers announced his retirement from professional soccer at age 25 and revealed he was gay. He said he was retiring to avoid the scrutiny from the press and fans, but after speaking at an LGBT youth event two months later, he decided that stepping down is a cowardly thing to do and he should use his platform to be a role model. The next month, he joined the LA Galaxy, becoming becoming the first openly gay man to play in a top North American professional sports league (NBA player Jason Collins, who had come out earlier that year, was a free agent at the time of his announcement). Read More »

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TCA: MTV’s ‘Happyland’ Q&A Derailed By Incest

By | Friday July 11, 2014 @ 10:49am PDT

TCA: MTV’s ‘Happyland’ Q&A Derailed By Incest“Incest is hot, and we’re going to have fun!” MTV‘s Happyland star Bianca Santos said this morning during the new series’ Q&A session at the TCA Summer TV Press Tour. “Now we have our lead!” responded journalists, in their heads — and one said out loud, in a follow-up question.

MTV logoRight before the Q&A started, critics were treated to a clip from the pilot episode of the soapy teen comedy exploring the underbelly of a popular theme park. At the every end of the clip, Santos’ character, Lucy — around whom this show’s universe revolves — makes out with the theme park’s new hottie, only to discover they’re siblings– oh, yeah, SPOILER ALERT.

Understandably, that informed the questions they asked of the show panel up on stage –  to the surprise, and weirdly, the annoyance of some panelists. Read More »

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Tony Awards Show Sings Hollywood’s Praises While Oscar Producers Return The Favor At PGA’s Produced By Conference

Pete Hammond

Presenting the two directing prizes on Sunday night’s Tony Awards, Clint Eastwood, who was on the show because he has2014 Tony Awards - Show directed the film version of the Tony winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys (6/20), summed it all up for me. “It seems like producers and directors from the stage and from movies are always looking for good new material, and sometimes they don’t find it. Sometimes they have to take it from one another with The Bridges Of Madison Country (Eastwood starred in and directed the film) or Bullets Over Broadway going to musical plays, and I’m proud to say that we’re bringing Jersey Boys to the movies and that will be after nine successful years on Broadway,” he said in introductory remarks. It was an understatement as most of the evening’s winners, spread among a larger number of shows than usual, have deep ties to movies-jersey-boys-stillHollywood and that included Bridges which picked up a couple of key Tonys for its composer Jason Robert Brown, despite closing last month. There’s also Rocky (Best Scenic Design of a Musical), Aladdin (Best Featured Actor in a Musical), as well as the two big musical winners of the evening (each with four victories), A Gentlemen’s Guide To Love And Murder (winner of Best Musical and which is derived from the 1949 Alec Guiness film  Kind Hearts And Coronets), and Read More »

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History Sets Knights Templar Miniseries From Craig Zadan & Neil Meron

By | Friday May 30, 2014 @ 3:21pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

3templarsEXCLUSIVE: History is teaming with Bonnie & Clyde executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron on a new four-hour miniseries. The network has bought a script for the project, from Sony TV and Zadan and Meron’s Storyline Entertainment, which tracks the origins of the mystic medieval Christian order known as Knights Templar. Written by Keir Pearson, an Oscar nominee with Terry George for Hotel Rwanda, the mini tells the true story of three brothers, all knights, during the first Crusade, as they make the long journey through the Holy Lands to recapture Jerusalem, ultimately bringing rise to the Knights Templar. Zadan ZADAN_MERONX390and Meron executive produce, with Pearson co-executive producing and Storyline VP Development Mark Nicholson, who brought in the project, serving as a producer. Like the Knights Templar mini, Zadan and Meron’s Bonnie & Clyde, also from Sony TV where Storyline has a longform deal, was originally set up at History before becoming a three-network event, airing simultaneously on History and A+E siblings Lifetime and history_channel_logoA&E. Zadan and Meron recently signed on to return as Oscar producers for a third straight year. They also are working on NBC’s Peter Pan, the follow-up to the their hugely successful live staging of The Sound of Music last year. Pearson, repped by manager Adesuwa McCalla and attorney Nina Shaw, recently penned … Read More »

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OSCARS: Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Return To Produce In 2015

86th Annual Academy Awards - ShowWe’re hearing the Academy is aiming for consistency and has nailed down Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to produce the Oscarcast for a third year running. Here’s how much consistency: the Academy announced the pair was returning for the 86th Oscars almost exactly a year ago (and they announced Ellen DeGeneres as host that August). It’s the first time since 1997-1999 (Gil Cates) that the Oscars has had the same producer three years in a row. In March, Meron, Zadan and DeGeneres together built a show that drew 43.7 million viewers with a 13.1/33 rating in adults 18-49, the most watched Academy Awards since 2000 and the highest-rated in the demo since 2010. The speculation right now is if the Academy wants consistency with the producers then they’d seek it with a host, but nothing has been set. Here’s today’s release:

Oscar_badge__140302212232BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Motion picture, television and theater producing team Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the Oscars for a third consecutive year, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced today. The 87th Oscars will air live on the ABC Television Network on Oscar® Sunday, February 22, 2015.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Craig and Neil back to produce the Oscars again in 2015,” said Boone Isaacs. “Their showmanship has elevated the show to new heights and we are excited to keep the momentum going with this creative partnership.”

Read More »

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OSCARS: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Play It Safer This Year With Star-Studded Show Led By Ellen

By | Monday February 24, 2014 @ 5:34pm PST
Pete Hammond

Some people were surprised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 2013 Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron backthe-academy-oscars-new-logo-1 to run the 2014 telecast. After all, that was the Seth MacFarlane-hosted show that caused controversy (“We Saw Your Boobs,” anyone?). You have to wonder what he might have done with 12 Years A Slave or The Wolf Of Wall Street this year! The reviews, though, were mixed to negative (I actually liked the attitude MacFarlane brought — different), with critics saying the show had too many musical segments and a James Bond tribute that, other than Shirley Bassey’s rendition of “Goldfinger,” fell flat. But it scored well in the AwardsLine.LogoBWratings and actually added a lot of previously missing young males to the typically female-driven viewing demographic. Zadan and Meron return this year in triumph after single-handedly reviving the live Broadway musical The Sound Of Music with their smash-hit version that starred Carrie Underwood and aired on NBC in December. Critics balked at that, too, but who’s laughing now? (Peter Pan is the next live musical they will do for NBC). Perhaps in a bid for more universal appeal, the producers are bringing back past Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres for what promises to be a much safer, more female-friendly telecast. Ellen is, well, Ellen, and very likable, so you know what you’re getting. The ABC … Read More »

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Oscars To Fete 75th Anniversary Of ‘Wizard Of Oz’

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 7:00am PST
Mike Fleming

wizEven though the theme of the upcoming Academy Awards is heroes, you knew that Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron weren’t going to limit this to spandex-clad superheroes and Gladiator‘s Maximus. So Zadan and Meron, best known for the musicals Chicago, Hairspray and most recently the TV ratings blockbuster The Sound Of Music, have found a way to empower some hoofing and singing. Oscar100__130208155647They announced today they will do a big honor thing for the 75th anniversary of The Wizard Of Oz. There will inevitably be complaining this year no matter which film wins Best Picture, but can you believe that that film didn’t win in 1939? Actually, it is hard to whine because the winner was Gone With The Wind. ”We are delighted to celebrate the birthday of one of the most beloved movies of all time at this year’s Oscars,” said Zadan and Meron.

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‘Chicago’ Re-Team For Craig Zadan, Neil Meron And Harvey Weinstein On ‘Pippin’

Mike Fleming

pippinEXCLUSIVE: Storyline Entertainment partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have signed on with The Weinstein Company to produce Pippin, the screen adaptation of the musical that recently won Best Revival of a Musical among a four-Tony Award haul. This puts Zadan and Meron back with Weinstein, with whom they most successfully teamed on Chicago, the 2002 screen adaptation that won Best Picture among six Oscars. The duo also produced the hit movie musical Hairspray.

chicWith book by Roger O. Hirson and music & lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Pippin originally launched in 1972 with Bob Fosse directing. It focused on the existential journey of the title character, a son of King Charlemagne trying to find his place in the Middle Ages. The Spectacular Now helmer James Ponsoldt is writing the screenplay adaptation of Pippin. Read More »

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Q&A: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron On “Historic” ‘Sound Of Music’ Special And ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini, ‘Smash’, Miley Cyrus

By | Wednesday December 4, 2013 @ 2:20pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

The Sound of Music Live! - Season 2013It is a big week for producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. They have the live staging of The Sound Of Music starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer on NBC tomorrow night, and four-hour miniseries Bonnie & Clyde starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger airing Sunday and Monday on History, A&E and Lifetime. While most producers abandoned the longform genre when it went out of fashion over the last five years, Zadan and Meron stuck with it through their longform deal at Sony TV, producing mostly movies for Lifetime, including the highly rated Steel Magnolias reboot with an all-black cast. Their loyalty has paid off and the two now are at the forefront of longform’s resurgence. (Zadan and Meron just sold a high-profile Eliot Ness miniseries to NBC.) Coming up for the duo next year is the launch of their new MTV comedy series Happyland, the return of Lifetime dramedy Drop Dead Diva and the filming of E! pilot Songbyrd. Oh, and they also are returning as producers of the Oscars in March. I caught up with Zadan and Meron to talk about Bonnie & Clyde and The Sound Of Music — find out why they call them “historic”, how Underwood traveled to Austria to prepare for playing Maria in SOM and how close Miley Cyrus came to playing Bonnie in B&C — as well as the Oscars, Smash and a possible Steel Magnolia sequel.

DEADLINE: Were you surprised by the longform genre’s resurgence?
ZADAN: We did expect it would come back. Everything is cyclical and we thought that event television had become so scarce between all the reality shows and all the other things that were going on (and also the fact that there were still great movies on HBO and a few other places), that eventually everybody would catch on to bring it back if there was a big hit that warranted it. I think Hatfields & McCoys was so enormous that no one could ignore it anymore; they had to bring it back at that point. Read More »

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NBC Developing Eliot Ness Miniseries From Craig Zadan & Neil Meron

By | Monday December 2, 2013 @ 10:09am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Eliot Ness NBC Miniseries EXCLUSIVE: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who are behind NBC‘s upcoming live staging of The Sound Of Music, are developing another ambitious event program for the network. The duo has teamed with NBC for Nemesis, an eight-hour miniseries about famous Prohibition agent Eliot Ness, who was portrayed by Kevin Costner in Brian Fe Palma’s Oscar-winning The Untouchables. The project, from Sony Pictures TV — where Zadan and Meron’s Storyline Entertainment has a long-form deal — is based on the book Nemesis: The Final Case Of Eliot Ness by William Bernhardt. It tells the true story of Ness in 1935, post-Untouchables, as Cleveland’s ZADAN_MERONX390newly appointed Director of Public Safety. Bodies have started turning up — each one decapitated and dissected with a doctor’s skill and a madman’s bent. The police are baffled and the population is terrorized over America’s first serial killer, the so-called “Torso Killer.” Though it’s not his turf, Ness is forced to take over the case, but the more energy he pours into the investigation, the more it takes over and threatens to destroy his life. Read More »

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TV Teaser: ‘The Sound of Music Live!’

By | Thursday November 7, 2013 @ 5:59pm PST

Here’s the first look at NBC‘s three-hour adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The Sound Of Music Live! airs live December 5 and stars Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, Audra McDonald, Christian Borle and Laura Benanti. It’s directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford and exec produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. Check it out:

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Jasmine Madatian To Leave Academy Communications Post; Relaunching Own Consulting Company

By | Tuesday August 6, 2013 @ 1:11pm PDT
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: I have learned veteran publicist Jasmine Madatian, head of communications for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences since June of 2012, has decided to leave the full-time post and return to her own consulting firm, AshTam. However, despite departing her Academy job, she will still have some involvement with the upcoming Oscarcast scheduled for March 2nd. She plans to work independently with Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, focusing on the campaign for the broadcast. The trio worked closely together on the most recent Academy Award show in her official capacity at the Academy and sources tell me Madatian and the returning producers wanted to continue the relationship. Read More »

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How The Academy Nabbed Ellen – Tweet By Tweet

Oscar producer Neil Meron took to Twitter today to break down how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences went about securing Ellen DeGeneres to host the 86th Oscars. It’s the appropriate venue since they used the social network to have DeGeneres announce she would take the gig. The “whirlwind 48 hours” began Wednesday afternoon, Meron writes, when he and fellow producer Craig Zadan pitched the idea to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who had been elected to the post less than 24 hours earlier. “Cheryl and @TheAcademy loved the idea of @TheEllenShow as #Oscars host and endorsed it“, he wrote. The pair asked DeGeneres on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday “she called & said “I’m in!”, he wrote. Then they decided to break the news on Twitter, which DeGeneres did first thing today.

Related: Look Back: Ellen DeGeneres’ 2007 Oscar Monologue

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UPDATE: Seth MacFarlane Gets Oscar Call; Plus Why Academy Asked Back Zadan And Meron

By | Monday April 22, 2013 @ 12:12pm PDT
Pete Hammond

UPDATE, 12:12 PM: After an initial denial, Deadline can now confirm that Seth MacFarlane did indeed get a call about returning as host of next year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards but has not given an answer yet. The big problem for MacFarlane, we are told by highly reliable sources, is his already full plate with a new Western comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West, going into production soon as well as initial work on Universal’s sequel to Ted, which has amassed a worldwide gross of over half a billion dollars and is obviously a priority for the studio.

Despite saying after this year’s Oscars that he wouldn’t consider coming back, MacFarlane is mulling the offer but at this point isn’t sure he has the time to do it. For the 85th Oscar show, he was closely involved for four months, and that is a big-time commitment. The Academy, returning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and MacFarlane’s PR reps aren’t commenting so far, and neither is Academy president Hawk Koch.

MacFarlane’s comic Western film is being produced by the Ted team of Media Rights Capital and producers Scott Stuber and Jason Clark. MacFarlane, who directs, co-writes with Ted and Family Guy colleagues Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, also stars as a bumbling sheep farmer in the comedy said to be in the vein of Blazing Saddles. Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Giovanni Ribisi co-star.

PREVIOUSLY, SATURDAY PM: Craig Zadan and Neil Meron aren’t talking yet (an Academy spokesperson said they are too busy at the moment producing their History Channel production of Bonnie And Clyde). But after the surprise announcement this week that they would be returning to produce the 2014 Oscar show, gossip blogs like HuffPo and others started spreading the obvious rumor that their handpicked — and controversial — 2013 Oscar host Seth MacFarlane already has been asked to do the gig again next year. Not true at all, Deadline has learned from MacFarlane’s reps. And shortly after the 85th Oscar show was over MacFarlane himself swore off any ambition to do the show again next year – or ever (of course never say ever). So with the false rumors out of the way let’s discuss what is true about the Academy’s Zadan/Meron play this week.

Even as much of the industry was in Las Vegas at CinemaCon for the past few days (including myself) seeing snippets of films still in production that could possibly turn up as Oscar contenders, the normally rigid Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences surprised us all by announcing 2013 show producers Zadan and Meron would be returning to produce the 2014 show as well, 11 months from now. Normally this is the first duty of an Academy President to choose after elections are held in August, and since current one-term President Hawk Koch will not be that person, it was quite unexpected to see him delivering this news in April, just a month and a half after the last show and before a new President would have any say in the matter, something Nikki specifically expressed shock at in her story on Tuesday.

After talking to numerous Academy insiders and board members this week who were directly involved in the process that led to this early bird choice, the word that comes up over and over is “continuity”. Other awards shows such as the Tonys, Grammys and even Emmys tend to go back to the same producers year after year, but as one former Academy President told me the Oscar show producing chores have lately been done “trial by fire”. Since the late Gil Cates produced his 14th and final Oscarcast in 2008, there has been a new team of producers every single year. The Board, which I am told was very much behind this decision, agreed that “continuity”, the kind they had in the Cates era, is important. That’s another reason the Academy has already announced show dates for both 2014 and even 2015 quelling any speculation the Oscars would move any earlier than the last Sunday in February (due to the Winter Olympics the 2014 show will be a week later on March 2).
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 Academy Awards® will air live on ABC on Oscar® Sunday, March 2, 2014.

“Craig and Neil have the overwhelming support of the Academy’s Governors to produce the Oscars again in 2014,” said Academy President Hawk Koch. “In order to establish continuity with this year’s enormously successful show, we felt it was important to give these consummate professionals the green light now to begin creating another great evening.”

“We are very honored to have been asked to return as Oscar producers for a second year,” said Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “We look forward to creating a distinctive and entertaining show.”

“Craig and Neil have great relationships, a sense of showmanship, and a passion for our Academy,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “And they’re a pleasure to work with. All perfect qualities for our show.”

The February 2013 Oscars hosted by Seth MacFarlane, drew an average audience of 40.3 million total viewers and delivered a 13.0 rating among adults 18-49. The show was TV’s most-watched entertainment telecast in the last 3 years, and grew its overall audience for the 2nd straight year (+3%), surging 11% in adults 18-49 (13.0 rating vs. 11.7 rating) to its

Read More »

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OSCARS: Show’s Ambitious Music Plans

By | Wednesday February 20, 2013 @ 6:59pm PST

Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond and ENTV’s Brian Corsetti preview Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron‘s ambitious musical plans for this Sunday’s show:

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OSCARS: ‘Les Mis’ Cast, Jennifer Hudson, Catherine Zeta-Jones To Sing Live In Musicals Tribute; Show Producers Reveal More Behind-The-Scenes Details

By | Wednesday February 20, 2013 @ 4:32am PST
Pete Hammond

EXCLUSIVE: Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls and Catherine Zeta-Jones for Chicago will be performing their Oscar-winning roles on Sunday’s Academy Awards as part of a celebration honoring the resurgence of movie musicals of the last decade. In the same segment revisiting their roles from this year’s Best Picture contender Les Miserables will be several of the film’s key cast members including Oscar nominees (and former Oscar hosts) Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway along with Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tevit, Samantha Barks, and Helena Bonham Carter.

This year’s Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who last month announced the musical tribute would be part of their show, have kept the participants who will be singing a secret until finally first breaking the news to Deadline this morning.

They have produced musicals for film like Chicago and Hairspray, for television films like Cinderella and The Music Man, on Broadway with How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and Promises Promises, and on series TV with their current NBC drama Smash. Music is obviously in Zadan and Meron’s DNA and, as evidenced by the musical talent they are luring to the telecast, that is clearly what their Oscar show is going to be all about. Host Seth MacFarlane will be merging music with his comedy bits right from the opening as well. Read More »

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OSCARS: Show’s Producers Want To Uphold Tradition But Also Modernize

By | Friday February 15, 2013 @ 8:00pm PST
Pete Hammond

Oscar telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron know their stuff when it comes to putting on a show. With huge musical successes in movies (Chicago, Hairspray, Footloose), TV (The Music Man, Cinderella), and Broadway (Promises Promises, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying), they have the chops to pull off the film industry’s biggest night of the year, though it has sometimes proved a pitfall for other producers. It can be challenging when the Academy mandates that valuable airtime goes to all 24 categories, including sound mixers, makeup and hairstylists, and producers of documentary short subjects, to name a few. But that doesn’t faze this veteran producing pair who say they started assembling the show’s elements from the day they got the job in late August.

Related: OSCARS: New James Bond Promo Ad

“We certainly are going to be celebrating the nominees and winners like a regular Oscar show, but they are fitting into the design of the show that we’ve created, so there’s going to be an enormous amount of entertainment”, Zadan says, pointing to the 50 years of James Bond tribute they have announced, which won’t be a reunion Read More »

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OSCARS: Academy President Defends Controversial Online Voting, Says More Members Voted Than Ever Before

Pete Hammond

Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Hawk Koch vigorously defended the Academy’s controversial new system of online voting when we spoke right after the nominations announcement this morning. He said despite the kinks and some complaints from members about difficulty in voting electronically that it actually brought out the biggest voter participation the organization has had. “It’s the first time, yes. But the first time you do anything of course there’s problems. Remember the first time you walked?  Of course there’s problems.  But the truth is we’ve had more people voting for nominations than we’ve ever had. And we had more people in each branch, every single branch had more people voting. So that portends two things. One, the online voting worked and two, everyone was excited about the films this year. They wanted to make sure and vote. And three, the questions about ’oh has everybody had a chance to see all the films?’ Our members saw all the films,” he said breaking with the long held tradition of keeping Academy voter turnout totals secret and not commenting at all on the subject. There had been speculation the Academy’s sometimes-rocky transition into online voting might actually depress voter participation but Koch said that definitely turned out not to be the case according to their internal figures.

Of course the Academy has been under strong scrutiny for the way it has conducted its first foray into the perilous waters of online voting, something every guild and most voting organizations have been doing for the past few years. Because the Academy (which could be a prized target for hackers) has to be overly concerned about security and the threat of having their system infiltrated they devised a “foolproof” system involving the use of codes and passwords and special phone numbers for member verification which confused some members and angered others. Others I spoke with over the course of voting seemed fine with it, so it was a mixed bag. The Academy tried to accommodate everyone and extended the registration period by two weeks after the first Deadline article appeared on November 28, and later changed its rules to automatically send a paper ballot for those who didn’t register online. As more members expressed frustration about being “locked out” of the system the Academy took another unprecedented step and even extended voting by one day to January 4th instead of the original announced date of January 3rd. Read More »

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