In a move to expand the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences membership's involvement in Oscar voting, the organization announced Saturday during its first general membership meeting that it will allow all members to vote in the foreign language film and documentary shorts category.
This changes the previous rule that required members to see the nominated films in both categories in a theater in order to vote. The academy's board of governors approved a plan that will now allow members to see the nominated documentary pieces in either a theatrical screening or on a DVD.
The announcement was made at a meeting in Beverly Hills at the academy's Goldwyn Theatre and simulcast to locations in Emeryville, Calif., and New York City.
"The main reason to host such an event was to have a relaxed, casual gathering with our membership and let them know about all of our programs," Dawn Hudson, the academy's chief operating officer, said in a post-meeting interview.
"It was a real dialogue and there was great member engagement," academy President Hawk Koch said.
Approximately 1,000 members attended the meeting, which was led by Koch and Hudson, the academy said. Actress Shohreh Aghdashloo spoke about the academy's international outreach efforts. Academy governor and producer Kathy Kennedy discussed plans for the new film museum, screenwriter Susannah Grant discussed the Nicholls writing fellowships, and director Bill Kroyer discussed the organization's technology efforts.
Actor Ed Begley Jr. applauded the organization's efforts to "green" the recent Oscar telecast.
Koch received specific shout-outs from members during the meeting for scheduling such an event -- the first of its kind for an organization not historically known for its transparency. Afterward, members were complementary of the event's professionalism and the amount of information shared with the members.
Notable attendees of the satellite meetings included directors Brad Bird and Pete Doctor in Emeryville in the Bay Area and Michael Moore and Melissa Leo in New York at the Lighthouse Theater.
A couple of attendees said the meeting, which was closed to the media, became heated when one member questioned the nomination rules for voting on foreign-language film, criticizing the current process whereby six finalists are chosen by a volunteer committee of members, while another three of the films are chosen by an executive committee.
Koch said former foreign language chairman Mark Johnson explained the rules to the angry member.
The one-year president added that one of the most-asked questions of the meeting centered on the foreign-language category, with members questioning why they can't see those films on DVD when others can be screened in that manner.
As part of the rule change, the organization will provide its members with DVDs of the nominated films in five categories: foreign language film, documentary feature, documentary short subject, animated short film and live action short film.
The strong turnout and positive feedback left organizers predicting that the meeting will become an annual event.
"From the reaction from all three places, it’s a good bet we will do it again," said Koch.
Last year’s controversial Oscar telecast, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, wasn’t discussed at length at the meeting. Koch mentioned the show’s ratings — which were high enough to warrant the return of producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. He also said he discussed the process behind the "In Memoriam" segment of the show, whereby a committee of members chooses 40 individuals to honor from 300 requests for inclusion.