Those new rules, as first reported on Deadline at the time, changed the nomination voting process. Instead of several groups of small mysterious committees each watching a set number of films, the whole documentary branch now has the opportunity to see and vote on every eligible film. Then final voting is opened up to the entire Academy to be pick a winner — just as they do on Best Picture and other categories. The new rules also attempted to trim the number of entries, specifically targeting films not really meant for theatrical release by requiring a one-week run in New York and Los Angeles as well as a review in either the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. This was seen as a way to discourage TV documentaries or vanity projects from getting into a race designed for movies that are truly meant for theaters first. HBO was a culprit, and now others are jumping into the docu world including today’s announcement regarding a new documentary unit from CNN.
The new system hasn’t worked out the way its main architect, Oscar-winning documentarian and Academy Doc branch Governor Michael Moore, envisioned, and he is the first to agree at least part of it has been a disaster. “I told them (the Academy) to use that word”, he said. “It’s a miserable failure.” Moore, who serves with co-governors Rob Epstein and Michael Apted, said this after branch members, who had already received a steady but manageable stream of movies to view on DVD through the first 9 months of the year, suddenly had about 80 new titles dumped on their doorsteps with only a month to go before ballots for the first wave of voting are due. The list will be whittled to 15 semifinalists in November followed in early January by the final five nominees sent to the entire membership. Moore during the last week has floated some ideas of strengthening the rules, but after talking with Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and COO Ric Robertson this weekend, he is thinking the best idea may be to go back and not have any rules (other than the standard ones imposed by the Academy) and to put the special-needs documentary branch on even footing with other Academy branches.
He agrees something went terribly wrong with the process this time.
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