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Film Sound Groups Criticize “Insensitive” Oscars Demotion

Film sound organizations have denounced the Oscars' decision to no longer present Best Sound awards during the live telecast.

oscars
Photo: Future

New York, NY (February 24, 2022)—Film audio groups have come out in force against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ surprise announcement that Oscars for Best Sound and seven other “craft” categories would no longer be presented during the live telecast.

On Tuesday, the Academy announced plans to minimize airtime spent on the sound, documentary short, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short and live action short awards by presenting them before the live telecast and then editing their presentation into the live telecast, highlight reel-style. Condemnation of the decision from virtually all corners of the industry’s affected fields has been swift.

The Cinema Audio Society’s Board of Directors derided the decision as showing “a sobering insensitivity to the affected creative arts,” while the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Board of Directors noted it was “shocked and troubled by the announcement.”

The UK’s Association of Motion Picture Sound made perhaps the most strongly worded statement, noting the “poorly-judged decision” was “deeply disappointing. It sends out a signal that these categories are deemed somehow less important, which can only serve to create division in the filmmaking community. All the affected categories will suffer from this insensitive devaluing of their contribution.”

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The decision further minimizes Sound’s presence at the Oscars, which was already reeling from last year’s move to condense the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing awards to a single, more general Best Sound category, which cut the vocation’s airtime—and perceived importance in the public eye—in half.

The Academy’s move comes in the wake of the worst ratings ever for its annual Oscars awards program last year, which fell off a cliff due to cinema closures during the pandemic. According to Nielsen, viewership of the 2021 ceremony dropped nearly 56% from 2020, with only 10.4 million people tuning in that night.

This is not the first time “craft” awards have faced opposition from the organizations meant to honor them. In 2019, the Academy attempted a similar move with the cinematography, editing, make-up & hairstyling, and live action short awards; that, however, was quickly rescinded after industry pushback. Somewhat similarly, in 2014, the Tony Awards outright eliminated its two sound categories in 2014—a move that caused sizable outcry throughout the theatrical world. An online petition by sound designer John Gromada garnered more than 32,000 signatures, while many Broadway performers protested on social media using the hashtag #TonyCanYouHearMe. The Tonys eventually relented and the categories were reinstated in 2017.

The various film sound organizations’ statements in full follow:

CAS Board of Directors

The CAS Board of Directors would like to share with you our official public statement regarding the recently announced changes to the telecast of the 94th Academy Awards:

The Cinema Audio Society looks forward to celebrating this year’s Oscar nominees, regardless of how and when the Oscars ceremony will be made available. We herald the work of all our fellow filmmakers, without whom there would be no categories to broadcast or celebrate at all.

The decision of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to celebrate some categories differently than others ultimately communicates a sobering insensitivity to the affected creative arts and is potentially divisive to the community. This action understates the indispensable contributions these crafts impart upon the works being celebrated on Oscar night.

It is our sincere desire that The Academy will reverse its decision and choose not to diminish the prestige of its esteemed honor to the filmmaking community.

-The Cinema Audio Society Board of Directors

• • •

MPSE Board of Directors

We are shocked and troubled by the announcement that the Academy plans to eliminate specific awards from this year’s broadcast, including sound.

To remove the live presentation of awards for such integral, creative, and artistic disciplines is to misrepresent filmmaking’s collaborative process to the world at large. The Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) is immensely proud of our peers in all the affected categories, including the sound community, whose art, creativity, and dedication have garnered them nominations for many awards worldwide, including Oscars.

It is our sincerest hope that AMPAS reconsiders this relegation and returns these artists to their rightful place of recognition – alongside their fellow filmmakers, live, on the 94th Academy Awards telecast.

• • •

The Council of the Association of Motion Picture Sound

The Association of Motion Picture Sound congratulates all the nominees at this year’s Oscars.

Filmmakers in all categories contribute to the impact of any film, so the decision by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to move some categories outside the main event is deeply disappointing. It sends out a signal that these categories are deemed somehow less important which can only serve to create division in the filmmaking community. All the affected categories will suffer from this insensitive devaluing of their contribution.

The Best Sound category was created last year by merging into one the two previous awards given for sound, and at that time a pledge was made to keep the best Sound category in the broadcast event. At a time when the AMPS/CAS/MPSE joint credit initiative is starting to gain momentum, this undermines the good work done to acknowledge the significant contribution our skilled and creative sound teams continue to make to cinema.

We feel that sound, film editing, production design or any of the other five categories devalued in this way make no less a contribution than those that are unaffected and we ask The Academy to reconsider this poorly-judged decision.

The Council of the Association of Motion Picture Sound.

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