Bill Mechanic’s Academy Exit Blasts CEO Dawn Hudson, Inclusion Efforts, #MeToo Response

“We have failed to the move the Oscars into the modern age, despite decades of increased competition and declining ratings,” Mechanic writes

Last Updated: April 17, 2018 @ 6:26 PM

Hollywood producer and departing governor of the motion picture academy Bill Mechanic sent a blistering letter of resignation to John Bailey on Tuesday, citing multiple institutional failures as reasons for his departure.

Mechanic blasted Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and other leadership for creating a “fractured environment which does not allow for a unified, strategically sound, vision,” according to the letter, first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

Mechanic also criticized the organization’s handling of crises like #OscarsSoWhite and the #MeToo movement, which touched the Academy in the form of accusations against its president.

“I feel I have failed the organization. I feel we have failed the organization. We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the Industry’s problem far, far more than it is the Academy’s. Instead we react to pressure,” Mechanic wrote.

One of his fellow board members thought the organization should ban white men from further entry, Mechanic said.

“One Governor even went as far as suggesting we don’t admit a single white male to the Academy, regardless of merit!” he exclaimed.

The “pressure” Mechanic referenced is presumably the prevailing criticism of the annual Oscars telecast for its lily-white field of nominees. The aforementioned social media movement #OscarsSoWhite sparked national debate about Hollywood’s rampant racial inequality.

In reference to board of governors revoking Harvey Weinstein’s membership last year in wake of widespread rape, sexual assault and harassment accusations (Weinstein denies nonconsensual sex), Mechanic said the board  “decided to play moral police.”

The producer then proposes this moral stance led to “most probably someone inside the Academy leaked confidential information in order to compromise the President,” referring to Bailey’s own sexual harassment accusations. Bailey, a cinematographer by trade, denied the accusations and the Academy stands by him.

A spokesperson for the Academy would not immediately confirm the veracity of the letter.

Read the full resignation letter:

Dear John:

There’s a moment when if you fail to make an impact, the right thing to do is make for the exits. After Saturday’s meeting, I’m at that moment and I respectfully must resign from the Board of Governors.

I have a great love and respect for the Academy. I grew up loving movies and watching the Academy Awards, never dreaming of being a nominee, producing the show, and certainly not becoming a Governor. Eventually all of these things actually came to pass and it was exciting when I was originally elected to the Board, serving with so many distinguished legends side-by-side in a non-hierarchical environment.

I left the Board after one term, but decided to run again a couple of years ago when many of the decisions of the Board seemed to me to be reactive rather than considered. I felt I could help provide some perspective and guidance.

But it’s exceedingly clear to me since returning to the Board that things have changed and there is now a fractured environment which does not allow for a unified, strategically sound, vision. I haven’t had any real impact, so now it’s time to leave.

I feel I have failed the organization. I feel we have failed the organization.

We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the Industry’s problem far, far more than it is the Academy’s. Instead we react to pressure. One Governor even went as far as suggesting we don’t admit a single white male to the Academy, regardless of merit!

We have failed to the move the Oscars into the modern age, despite decades of increased competition and declining ratings. Instead we have kept to the same number of awards, which inherently means a long and boring show, and over the past decade we have nominated so many smaller independent films that the Oscars feel like they should be handed out in a tent. Big is not inherently bad and small is not inherently good. Moving into the modern age does not mean competing with the Emmys for non-theatrical features.

We have failed to solve the problems of the Museum, which is ridiculously over its initial budget and way past its original opening date. Despite having the best of the best inside the Academy membership, we have ignored the input of our Governors and our members.

We have failed our employees. Over the past seven years, we have watched dedicated employees of the Academy be driven out or leave out of frustration. Certainly, some freshening of an organization is a good thing, but that doesn’t seem the case here; this seems more like a “purge” to stifle debate and support management as opposed to the needs of the Academy.

We have failed to provide leadership. Yes, that includes the Presidency, which with a one year term creates instability, but moreover the CEO role has become much broader and far reaching, and the results are erratic at best. It also includes 54 Board of Governors, which is so large it makes decision-making difficult and makes it way too easy for the silent majority to stay silent.

Many of the problems I’m talking about come not from malfeasance but rather from the silence of too many Governors. A vocal few people are insistent that the problems are not really problems or would be too damaging to the Academy to admit. Not facing your problems means you are not addressing those issues and, guess what, problems don’t go away — they simmer under the surface and, if anything, get worse.

You can’t hide the drainage of employees, the cataclysmic decline in the Oscar ratings, the fact that no popular film has won in over a decade; that we decided to play Moral Police and most probably someone inside the Academy leaked confidential information in order to compromise the President; that the Board doesn’t feel their voice is being heard with regard to the Museum; that we have allowed the Academy to be blamed for things way beyond our control and then try to do things which are not in our purview (sexual harassment, discrimination in the Industry).

Perhaps I’m wrong about all of this and if so my resignation will simply make things better. If that’s the case, so be it. If it’s not, then I truly hope the majority of Governors will take action. Check in with our membership and get their input. If they respond as many have with me, then change the leadership of the Academy and put the Academy’s interests above any personal likes or dislikes.

Respectfully,

Bill Mechanic 

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