Award-Winning Sound Mixer Resigns From Academy in Protest

Award-Winning Sound Mixer Resigns From Academy in Protest
Oscars statuettes are on display backstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 9, 2020. (Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images)
City News Service

LOS ANGELES—Oscar-winning sound mixer Tom Fleischman has resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in protest over the organization's plans to present Academy Awards in several categories—including sound—prior to the show's national telecast.

A spokesman for Fleischman, a longtime collaborator with filmmaker Martin Scorsese, confirmed to several media outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, that he had surrendered his membership to the organization.

Fleischman, who won a sound-mixing Oscar for his work on "Hugo," a 2011 Scorsese film, reportedly resigned shortly after the Academy announced plans to reduced the number of live, on-air award presentations.

His other nominations were for his work on the Scorsese films "The Aviator" and "Gangs of New York," along with "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Reds." Fleischman also worked on Scorsese's films "Goodfellas," "The Departed" and "Raging Bull" and several Spike Lee films including "Do the Right Thing," "Mo' Better Blues," "Malcolm X" and "BlacKKKlansman."

In addition, he is a four-time Emmy winner.

His resignation is the latest fallout over the Academy's plan to juggle the process of handing out Oscars in an effort to streamline the three-hour telecast and hopefully boost ratings.

Under the Academy's plan, Oscar statuettes in eight categories will be handed out at the Dolby Theatre prior to the start of the telecast. The affected categories are documentary short subject, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short film, live action short film and sound.

Academy President David Rubin told members in a letter that the move will make the telecast "tighter and more electric," noting that the ceremony is a "live event television show and we must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic and relevant."

Rubin insisted the presentations and acceptance speeches would all be filmed, edited and included in the Oscar telecast.

But that has done little to appease the various Hollywood guilds affected by the change.

"We are deeply disappointed by the Academy's decision to alter the way certain categories, including film editing, will be presented in the Oscars telecast," according to a statement issued last month by the American Cinema Editors board of directors. "It sends a message that some creative disciplines are more vital than others. Nothing could be further from the truth and all who make movies know this."

Many on social media applauded Fleischman's decision and continued the ongoing criticism of the Academy's Oscar night plans.

"Well the @TheAcademy has made it clear that best makeup, best editing and best sound, among other categories, aren't valued enough to include in the live awards show,'' musician Claudia Miles posted on Twitter.

"I wish two things," writer and podcaster Joanna Robinson tweeted. "A) that it didn't have to come to this and B) that more high profile filmmakers (other than Guillermo del Toro) stood with their colleagues being mistreated by the Academy this year. Speak up for your editors and sound designers etc etc etc!"

Last Monday, del Toro, who is nominated for best director this year for his film "Nightmare Alley," criticized plans to shortened the Oscars presentations and pointed out the collaborative nature of the movie industry.

"The nominees that we have here, ... [worked] against many, many difficult odds [to get here], and we don't do [films] alone," del Toro said while accepting his Hollywood Critics Association Filmmaking Achievement Award.

"We do them together, and the people that made them with us did it risking everything in a pandemic, showing up, making the day, somewhat in a miracle. I must say, if any year was the year to think about it, this is not the year [to] not to hear their names live at the Oscars. This is the year to sing it, and sing it loud. We shouldn't do it this year; we shouldn't do it ever, but not this year."

Others noted that recipients of the less well known awards often make the best speeches.

"It really sucks," writer Jessica Johnson tweeted. "The most memorable and most human moments from the Oscars often come during those 'smaller' category acceptance speeches."

The Academy has tried to implement a similar strategy before, but backlash from impacted sectors of the movie industry thwarted the plans. In 2018, the Academy announced that some awards would be presented during commercial breaks of the telecast, with highlights of the acceptance speeches then shown during the telecast. But objections from various industry guilds prompted the Academy to scrap the plan.

The 94th Oscar ceremony will be held March 27.

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