Denis Villeneuve Calls Oscar Telecast Changes “A Mistake”; Jane Campion Also Expresses Dismay

The hot pre-ceremony topic among attendees of the 26th annual Art Directors Guild Awards tonight was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ controversial decision to pre-tape several artisan awards – including production design – and edit them into the live network broadcast.

“Honestly, I think that the Academy’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Dune filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, on hand to receive the guild’s William Cameron Menzies Award, told Deadline. “I think it’s a mistake. And I understand that they’re under tremendous pressure, but I think it isn’t the right decision.”

“The thing is that filmmaking is about a teamwork. It’s like a football team,” he continued. “It’s like you have like all different kinds of jobs that everybody needs to get the top of its game; otherwise the movie collapses, you know? It’s a team effort. In the media we are a lot about the directors. We are, of course, a lot about the actors. All the people that are working in the shadows there, unfortunately, they need to be seen and to be recognized, and these award shows are made for them.”

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Villeneuve said he thinks that after this year’s outcry, the Academy will rethink its decision for next year’s telecast. “I think that the Oscars are going through an identity crisis,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Academy Awards. I think everybody is expecting that it will be a long show. Myself, I love it…There’s always bursts of genius. And beautiful moments. Sometimes it’s boring…Every single edition is always its own. It’s part of the show. And listen, we’ll see what happened this year but I think there will be a lot of thought before and after.

Appearing via video to accept the guild’s Cinematic Imagery Award while quarantining due to a mild bout of Covid, The Power of the Dog filmmaker Jane Campion also expressed her dismay that the production designers Oscar would be announced before the broadcast.

“With the recent changes in the format the Oscars I want to take a moment to express particularly how important production design is to creating a good film,” said Campion, “I would have definitely included design in the main body of the awards because design is so vital. It’s one of the most important relationships.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” agreed legendary production designer Bo Welch, nominated in the half-hour single camera category for his work on Schmigadoon. I think it diminishes the way I understand the time-crunch thing and ratings nose-diving, but this doesn’t seem to be the way to remedy that. I don’t think you want to diminish any particular craft, because, as we all know, it takes a lot of people that put these together with very special skills and disciplines and talents. To weigh one or the other is bullshit, I think.

“I think there’s enough of pushback on this – I’m an Academy member and I have been since the 1980s – and it just didn’t feel right,” Welch added. “It feels pandering to commercial time.”

“I woke up in the morning to the news, and it was upset about how they decided which categories,” said production designer Jade Healy, nominated in the fantasy feature category for her work on The Green Knight. “It feels like It’s really just kind of serving the [mainstream television] audience. With the audience costume [design] is still there because they understand what costume is, but production designs is always even more of a challenge for regular non-movie people. And they just don’t want to do the work of explaining.”

“I think that it’s wrong,” said actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who hosted the ADG ceremony. “This is their moment. This is their pageant. And to work on a film in the midst of Covid it comes out and you’re nominated and you don’t get to walk up those stairs and say what you have to say in the live telecast? We always have a lot of filler on award shows, people cracking wise and dance numbers of stuff. Let everybody have their moment.”

Nominees at the night’s other guild soiree, the Ace Eddie Awards, voiced similar objections. Editing is another category being excised from the live telecast this year.

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