Moore slams doc “vanity projects” vying for Oscars

AMPAS doc branch governor Michael Moore (pictured) has hit out at some of the more than 130 docs that have secured Oscar eligibility this year, accusing certain filmmakers of spending more than $US20,000 to qualify "vanity projects."
October 3, 2012

Michael Moore (pictured), governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Documentary Branch, has hit out at a number of docs that he says have secured Oscar eligibility this year, accusing certain filmmakers of spending more than $US20,000 to qualify “vanity projects.”

Addressing his “fellow docmakers” and Academy members in a series of Tweets, Moore said that more than 130 documentaries had qualified for assessment for next year’s Academy Awards, which takes place on February 24 in Hollywood.

To become eligible, films need to fulfill a number of requirements, including a week-long theatrical run in New York or LA, and a review in either The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times.  However, Moore said many docs are abusing the eligibility criteria requirements.

“Once again, scores of “documentaries” which didn’t get a REAL theatrical run have “bought” their eligibility to qualify for the Oscars,” Moore Tweeted. “Dozens of TV movies & “vanity projects” spend $20K or more to buy a screen for a week to “qualify.” This favors only those with big bucks.”

Moore added: “Over 130 “documentaries” have “qualified” 4 this yr’s Oscars. But as u all know, 130 docs were not released in theaters this yr. So now what?”

Moore’s missive comes after he himself led the charge to push through a raft of changes to the Academy’s qualifying procedure for the best documentary feature Oscar category earlier this year, after complaints that some of 2011′s most acclaimed docs had failed to make the doc Oscar shortlist.

Among the new rules introduced earlier this year – designed to cut down the number of overall docs that became eligible for an Oscar nomination and give big box office docs a better chance at landing a nomination – was the introduction of a rule stating that the full Academy will vote for the best doc feature Oscar winner, and not just the doc branch.

In addition, the Academy doc feature shortlist, and later the five nominees, will be determined by a vote of the full doc branch, and not just small teams. Docs must also secure a review from either The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times to qualify.

Earlier this year, Moore highlighted HBO as a key culprit in submitting TV docs that were never intended for proper theatrical runs for Oscar consideration.

Discussing the problem as he saw it, he told Indiewire: “If The King’s Speech is first shown on HBO, it’s eligible for an Emmy. Oscars are for real movies distributed in theaters. Senna and Into the Abyss and The Interrupters were made to be in movie theaters. Their slots were taken away by films intended as TV movies.”

Moore had stated after the changes that he expected the number of feature docs to qualify for this year to be about 60 – a reduction of more than 50% on the 124 that qualified in 2011.

However, Moore’s tweets regarding the more than 130 docs that will have to be considered for the 15-long doc feature Oscar shortlist suggest the Academy’s efforts to reduce the number of qualifying titles have been unsuccessful.


Thoughts on Michael Moore’s Twitter remarks? Post them in the comments section below…

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.