This past weekend the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made some changes to the rules for film eligibility in the Academy Awards. When Variety broke this story, it made little impact on people outside the business. Many of the rules effect small things – the number of producers who can win an award for a single film, allowing musical groups to win Oscars and not simply their group members – but one small change to the short film category may change the way we watch films going forward.
The small but not insignificant rule change reads like this…
“In the Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film categories, films that have received prior nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution may now qualify for Academy Awards consideration by winning a festival award on the Short Films Qualifying Festival List.” – Variety
In the past, in order to be nominated for an award in a short film category it was required that the film not have been placed online in any capacity before picking up notoriety, winning an award from a film festival. The logic: who would pay to see shorts at a film festival that they could already see at home for free? Unfortunately, this has created an environment in which many short directors have kept their work unseen outside of film festivals. High-quality directors must choose. On one hand, there is the notoriety that a large public audience can give you, such is the case with District 9 director Neil Blomkamp’s early film Alive in Joburg which led to him receiving the money to make the aforementioned film after the short had gained popularity online. On the other hand, by winning a major film festival award and qualifying to run for an Academy Award it is possible to receive future film funding; such as is the case with Destin Cretton’s short film Short Term 12 which led to a feature of the same name.
No longer do directors have to choose. Hopefully, this will lead to a larger viewing audience being able to view high quality short films throughout the year. It should also allow people to watch Oscar nominated short films from the comfort of their home. A greater proliferation of content can only benefit the consumer.
Do you watch short films? What do you think of this change in the rules?
– A. Lawrence Dreyfuss
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