Academy Tightens Rules For Documentary Oscar Hopefuls

AintItCoolNews has an interesting news report/editorial on some recent changes that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made to the rules regarding the eligibility of documentary films for possible Academy Award consideration.

Among the new rules include stipulations that feature-length documentaries must now screen for at least seven days in 14 markets across ten states as well as stronger restrictions on the format of any documentary shot digitally as oppossed to on film.

What does this mean for the smaller filmmaker?

Well, as AICN’s Elston Gunn reports, “smaller budgeted documentary features will be the ones to suffer. You could shoot the greatest documentary of all time for $100 on mini-DV and you’re still going to have to jump through fiery hoops or pay a hefty price to get the Oscars to consider thinking about at least putting it on their nominee shortlist.”

To me this looks like yet another attempt by the motion picture industry to limit the exposure, and ultimately the profitablity, of any smaller film produced outside of the traditional studio structure. Kirby Dick’s excellent documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated makes the compelling case that smaller, independent films are given ratings harsher than their big studio counterparts and thus limiting their potential business.

Until the rules change, documentaries were only required to have a one week run in either New York City or Los Angeles to qualify for Oscar consideration, a relatively easy thing to arrange for an independent silmmaker or small distributor. However, their problems are now multiplied in having to secure at least 14 venues in ten states to screen their films in order to be considered for the Academy Award ballot.

Even appearing on the nominations list gives a small film a boast in additional bookings and DVDs sales, and may very well be the thing that helps a small project break even or turn a slight profit. Appearantly, though, the Academy doesn’t see it’s mission so much as to encourage the advancement of all motion picture arts and sciences. Instead it seems to be, much like the Motion Picture Association of America, more interested in protecting the interests of the major Hollywood studios and their corporate bottom lines.

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About Rich Drees 7205 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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