An Open Letter To AMPAS

An Open Letter To AMPAS

AMPASDear Mothership,

Please forgive me for suggesting this, but I can’t help but perceive your recent rules changes as little more than basic gerrymandering.
I’ve been in the production end of “The Biz” as a Feature Film Editor for 55 years now.  I met the Academy membership requirement of editing 3 feature films (in theatrical release), had the necessary sponsors, but was refused membership because my Roger Corman/American International Pictures credits’ “Were not worthy.”  Being snubbed by one’s own peer group hurts!
Ten years of editing for a broader array of producers and major studios later I mounted a 2nd, then 3rd attempt – ultimately sponsored by Rudi Fehr (distinguished head of Warner Bros. Editing) – and was admitted to the Academy in 1979.  So, fortunately, I’ve now met the newly ruled 30 year threshold.
But for so many other future and current Academy members who achieve membership much later in their careers, they are likely to never be able to meet the new standard for permanent membership.  I admit to being ushered through the door under the Nepotism sign when entering the biz. 
But let us consider those that endured four or more years in film school, only to be confronted with the never ending Catch 22 affect when trying to crack a union threshold that must be breached before they can start the years of apprenticeship learning.
As the Academy doesn’t fund, distribute, or make movies, it’s not clear to me why it has become our task to resolve an issue that we have virtually no control over.  We certainly can support efforts to encourage producers (Majors & Indies) to produce films with a more encompassing set of story lines and characters. 
No matter how altruistic a producer’s motives, his/her bottom line is to fundamentally ‘make it profitable.’  Like most businesses, producers answer to ‘boards’ and investors.
The elephant in this room is the reality that the worldwide audience – spanning a great number of differing cultures – is “How many theater seats are filled for a black film (story) in other markets (societies) in the world?  As one successful producer states, “There are maybe only two black actors that sell enough tickets worldwide to make the risk worthwhile.”
This sounds like a perfect opportunity for any of a number of proven black feature film producers to make and control a ‘black film.’  There are many black entertainers, athletes, entrepreneurs, etc., with the wherewithal to invest the kind of cash needed to be a part of the solution.  There is no lack of great ‘black’ stories yet to be told.
There’s almost certainly a learning curve, but once they come to understand the ins and outs of their ventures they will have solved many of the problems your changes fail to address.  Like all good things, it doesn’t happen overnight.
AMPAS
Academy Member William Goldstein
I have edited a dozen “black” films.  “Cooley High” is my personal favorite, but in all my years of being interviewed I’ve have never encountered a director or producer that admits to seeing it in a theater.  It was designated a ’small market release’ at the time and never had a broader release.  How things have changed….. slowly.
So as to avoid having to add an Intermission, I’ll cut to the chase:
How have the Academy’s recent rules changes addressed the latest howl of “Discrimination”?  Negligibly.
The AMPAS’ rule changes seem little more than a knee jerk reaction to an issue we are all sympathetic too, but have ultimately only demoralized the entire membership.
I wonder if your culling a bit of ‘old wood’ was opportunistic as to issues you’ve avoided for some time.
What if there is a ‘Mercury Retrograde’ year where there are no films that remotely qualify for achievement in any field for any black members?  It’s not within the Academy’s sovereignty to alter or dictate choices of product produced.
I hope you will reconsider your fiat and head to the editing room and consider the equivalent of a ‘Director’s Cut’ or ‘Extended Version’ of these new rules.
Thanks to the L.A.Times for publishing William Goldstein’s letter to the Academy which I think opened the membership’s reaction to the public we believe we are serving.
Christopher Holmes
AMPAS, IATSE

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