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It’s Time to Stand Up for Sound

With the announcement that eight Oscars—including Best Sound—will not be presented during the live telecast this year, Hollywood is rightfully up in arms about the poor decision.

Photo: Future

We stand with Tom Fleischman. We stand with the Motion Picture Sound Editors, Cinema Audio Society, Society of Composers and Lyricists, and all the talented sound teams in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Mexico City, Mumbai and all points in between.

The late-February announcement by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences that eight awards categories—documentary short, animated short, live action short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, production design and sound—would be pre-taped and woven into the live telecast on March 27, was met with immediate backlash. The subtext quickly became overt: Some awards are more important than others.

The Motion Picture Sound Editors was the first organization to speak out against the decision, issuing a statement one day after the Academy announcement. The Cinema Audio Society followed the next morning. Each of their messages included the entire filmmaking community—in support of all eight categories of “crafts, artisans, tech” nominees that were to be excluded from the telecast.

Since then, protests have come from all eight branches involved. Over the weekend, directors Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro and Jane Campion spoke out against the decision.

On Saturday, Tom Fleischman, CAS, an Oscar-winning (and five-time nominee) re-recording mixer known for his work with Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Jonathan Demme and so many others, announced his resignation from the Academy.

Fleischman is an amazing talent, with a long history in sound and an even longer history in film. He sits on the board of the CAS, and he knows what’s going on. Two years ago, like everyone else, he lamented yet accepted the merging of Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing into the single category of Best Sound. I’ve met Tom Fleischman. I’ve watched him slide up and down the Neve (back in the ’90s) and now the Avid S6 and been amazed at how his mind, body and ears all work together. He is a true sound artist.

It was a bold move, and my guess is that he finally got fed up and decided to make a stand. In this day and age of Tweets and Posts, few of us out there actually stand up and say, “Enough!” Tom Fleischman did. We applaud him.

The protests continue as you read this, and will no doubt be revisited as soon as the March 27 telecast is over. This will not go away.

It’s telling that the Academy and the media can’t come up with a common term to describe this new grouping of awards categories, which includes talents as wide ranging as Original Score composers and Makeup and Hairstyling professionals. Film editors, sound crews and production designers? I guess they’re all crafts and artisans and techs. Where do Animated Short and Documentary Short fit in? Those are full teams of filmmakers.

And we support them all.