Academy CEO Bill Kramer: ‘You’re going to see a show that’s much more immersive, much more nominee-focused’

Bill Kramer, who was voted in as CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by its Board of Governors last June, gave an exclusive interview to Time magazine in advance of the March 12 Academy Awards during which he spoke about his plans for this year’s Oscars. They include having a crisis team at the ready just in case there’s a need to instantly address a controversy like the one last year involving Will Smith’s uninvited journey to the stage to slap presenter Chris Rock over a perceived insult of his wife.

He also addressed how the forthcoming Oscars may look different in some ways and the same in others. One way it will be like some of the previous Oscar ceremonies is the safe choice of host Jimmy Kimmel, his third time as Academy Awards emcee.

 “It’s so important to have a host who knows how to handle live television and a live audience,” Kramer told Time. “That’s a very specific skill, and there aren’t a lot of people who can do that well. Jimmy is a dream to work with…I think people in the audience feel very safe and engaged with his energy.”

In terms of what might look dissimilar to recent Oscar shows, Kramer said, “You’re going to see a show that is much more immersive, much more nominee-focused, and much more focused on all of the disciplines of filmmaking.” He then drew a parallel between the early success of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures since it opened some 17 months ago (well over a million visitors) and how that engagement leads to “bringing a lot of that energy to the stage and the show.”

But if something surprising does happen this year like The Slap, Kramer feels confident having someone like Kimmel nearby who is ready to roll with it. “Things don’t always go as planned,” he agreed, “so you have to have a host in place who can really pivot and manage those moments. But we have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place. We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now.”

Kimmel has already been tested once under such Oscar fire – in 2017, when he was host during the Best Picture envelope fiasco that found “La La Land” accidentally being announced as the winner, only to find moments later that it was actually “Moonlight.” It’s unclear how much Kimmel’s live TV experience helped during that bizarre crisis, or if anyone could have better sorted out the chaos that ensued.

“Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” Kramer told Time. “But these crisis plans – the crisis communications teams and structures we have in place – allow us to say this is the group that we have to gather very quickly. This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement. Let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these, but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify.”

In terms of making specific changes to the show to try to attract greater interest and a larger audience, Kramer acknowledged that last year’s fan favorite poll and the decision to move eight technical awards off the live show were abject failures.

SEE Academy claims Will Smith refused to leave Oscars after Chris Rock slap

“Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” he said. “We always learn from them. I think bringing the eight awards back on the live show is critical. We have to keep the show moving, but I think that’s what the audiences want to see when they tune in to the Oscars and it’s very on brand for us.” But just because previous new wrinkles proved unpopular doesn’t mean you stop trying the following year, he said. “You’re going to see a few really interesting things this year that throw you to a second screen for more information.”

Kramer also addressed the controversy surrounding Andrea Riseborough’s lead actress nomination for her work in “To Leslie” and the role played by grassroots word-of-mouth and social media-fueled campaigning. It results in an investigation and a warning about how future similar tactics may clash with ensuring “a fair and ethical awards process.” His statement in January continued, “Given this review, it is apparent that components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive, and unbiased campaigning. These changes will be made after this awards cycle and will be shared with our membership.”

In his interview with Time, Kramer further elaborated, “Social media is and can be a great leveler with campaigning. I want to make sure now that I am the CEO of the academy that our regulations are much more clear about our expectations for how people will promote their films.

“But I think social media is a space where, if used properly and used in an ethical, kind, fair way, is a great leveler. I think it can be a good thing. We just need to put some guardrails around that and talk about our expectations and our rules and regulations in ways that are clear. It can be confusing, and the academy needs to help guide the way for equity in how people promote their films.”

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