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Academy Confirms It: Michael Moore Has Killed the Doc Committees

Several days after Moore talked about the changes he spearheaded, AMPAS confirms that his overhaul of the process will take effect

The Academy has made it official: New rules in the documentary category will take effect this year, dramatically changing the way nonfiction films are judged for the 85th Academy Awards in 2013.

The most drastic change is the elimination of a committee system in the Documentary Feature category. Instead, all branch members will be eligible to vote in the nominating process, and the entire Academy will be permitted to vote for the winner, without the previous requirement that they see all five nominees in a theatrical setting.

Michael MooreOscar-winning director Michael Moore (left), who spearheaded the move to change the system, discussed the new rules at length with TheWrap this week, and said that they will bring democracy to the process and help stop the practice of TV networks quietly sneaking films into theaters for theatrical runs before holding splashy television "premieres."

Also read: Michael Moore: Why the New Oscar Doc Process Shouldn't Scare Anyone (But HBO)

The most controversial of the new rules, which requires a review in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, was designed to halt this process.

Under the previous system, a small number of voters judged each film in the early rounds, essentially giving each of those voters the chance to kill a film's chances.

The history of the documentary category is full of shocking snubs and omissions, from the failure of "Hoop Dreams" to be nominated in 1994 to this year's shortlist, which did not include the acclaimed documentaries "The Interrupters" (from the director of "Hoop Dreams," Steve James), "Into the Abyss" (Werner Herzog) and "Tabloid" (Errol Morris).

Also read: Inconvenient Truths About Oscar's Documentary Process

Changes were also made in the Live Action Short and Animated Short categories.

From the Academy press release, here is a description of the changes:

"In the Documentary Feature category, the entire Documentary Branch will now receive all eligible titles beginning in the first round of voting. To facilitate this change, filmmakers must submit 200 DVDs, an increase from the 30 that had been required in previous years. In the final round of voting in this category, members must still see all the nominated films, but the viewing of films on digital or DVD screeners will now be an option for satisfying this requirement.
A documentary feature film’s eligibility will continue to depend on completing seven-day qualifying runs in both New York and Los Angeles that are advertised in at least one major newspaper, as specified by Academy rules, in each city. For the 85th Academy Awards, however, a review by a movie critic in The New York Times and/or the Los Angeles Times will also be required.

"In the Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories, members will still have to see all the nominated films before casting their final ballots, but viewing the films on screeners will now be an option for satisfying this requirement. Films that are shown during their theatrical run in a non-standard format, such as IMAX, will have to be submitted to the Academy in a standard theatrical aspect ratio and in a format currently accepted for Academy exhibition to remain eligible. Producers may provide additional screenings of their films in non-standard formats, but members’ attendance at such screenings will not be required for voting purposes."

  • BobinNC

    Back to Ben Stein – Boycott Kyocera.  Boycott anything by this a55bag Mike f'ing Moore – what a pig, just like ‘Shark_Killer’ Rosie Odonnell – way togo Rosie, save whatever you stand for but sharks? What the heck are you thinking?

    • BringOnFattedCow

      Now…if only Moore would kill himself.  What joy!!

      • Mary Allen

        I can not even begin to realize how angry/ disturbed you must be ( and you know who you are) to write such HATE about anyone /anything who you disagree. There are better ways to think and feel and a more civilized way to express yourself. I send you all good wishes so perhaps that anger and hate can change and you can become a happier, gentler and kinder person. Whatever in your past that has caused you to be so cruel, mean and violent in your need to express yourself – I am sorry for you.
        Best wishes.    

  • branchmember

    Please get this straight. There has never been any screening “committees” in the documentary branch and in the past all documentary branch members who chose to vote and did not have a conflict of interest have always been eligible to vote.  Those branch members, a majority,  who returned a card or email  saying they were willing to screen ( it is a great deal of work and often members did not have the time) were sent screeners. To make the process reasonable for the short screening period, the members were divided into four or five groups depending on the number of eligible films. Last year it was around 125 feature length films due to a calendar change. The year before it was still over 100. The screening period in the past was roughly a month. While there is some hope that it can be extended by having filmmakers qualify well before the deadline, this attempt did not work well this year ( we only received 3 feature docs ahead of time). These groups were not committees and did not communicate with each other. While this process was cumbersome, it guaranteed that all eligible films were screened. There have been some good new changes, we have wrestled over the last few years with ways to make sure eligible films are truly theatrical and requiring a movie critic review will help keep shortlist slots open for deserving films that have been crowded out. Having the entire Academy vote on the nominees via screeners is also a big move forward.