The Impasse with AMPAS

A lot of digital ink has been spilled about the brewing war between Steven Spielberg’s camp and the Digital Pioneers at places like Netflix. It’s inevitable that it will be a pitched battle. The new kid wants “in” at the awards shows to get respect, the clique doesn’t want to let them in, and so the battle for acceptance begins.

Honestly, it sounds like the plot of a movie in and of itself. Bonus points to the studio who produces it first!

Those trying to control the industry disruption will be portrayed as stodgy opponents of logical progress. Those trying to disrupt the industry will be viewed as disrespectful of art and tradition.

Both sides are, of course, correct. They are those things.

architecture building business cinema ampas oscars steven spielberg hi craigula
Now fill it with a ton of people you wouldn’t want to spend time near. Photo by Nathan Engel on

Art v. Eyeballs: Dawn of Marketing Strategies

Netflix could care less about art as most people consider it. “Art” is simply something they’ll employ to get respect. It’s a leveraging tool for executives to puff out their chests at parties and ink deals for respected actors to appear in superhero movies.

Ironically, it’s a reflection of the exact Hollywood system it’s aiming to disrupt. This desire for “art” to improve the bottom line is the marketing tactic that has kept so many filmmakers in the conversation despite their inability to deliver Avengers-type box office receipts.

The other truth here is that Netflix is becoming a better option to deliver this content to consumers. For a flat fee you can see anything in their library; the same is true of any streaming service. There’s substantially less effort in terms of getting a babysitter, for those who have such concerns, extra cost, or the hassle of sitting in a theater with people who sound like they’re snoring while they’re awake. (True story!)

The Old Guard at AMPAS, of course, consider this sacrilege. They get to view industry or private screenings that leave them baffled as to why anyone would choose not to go to the theater.

The funniest part of this hissy fit from the Old Guard is that the music industry faced a disruption like this decades ago. Instead of paying attention to that, and taking it as a given that the revolution would come to their doorstep, they pretended like their content was insulated.

I don’t understand why they would think people wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to stream movies. It’s as if they never envisioned a home video market that had first-run content worth watching, as opposed to direct-to-video stuff like Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar.

Disney Return of Jafar.
To be fair, I don’t care if this is up for an award. I can assure you it wouldn’t win.

The Difference: Scale and Media Access

This is all a microcosmic example of the polarization in every sector of a planet grappling with technological developments which are proceeding faster than we’re able to assimilate them. It’s happened before, it will happen again.

As each industry is threatened, the Old Guard rebels. The reason it’s such an issue now is because they want to live with the same benefits, without the cost of adaptation.

The differences now are scale and media access. This specific Old Guard has easy access to media, and knows how to control the narrative. Spielberg and those with him are old hat when it comes to getting control of a story. They have established channels.

I respect him, and everyone who wants to lodge this complaint about Netflix productions having consideration for the high-prestige awards. I just don’t agree with them. The tremendous benefit of streaming is it can get your work in front of more people, more easily. The cost is that you have to change the way you’re prepared to deliver and consider the work.

If you’re going to go for the benefits, you’ve got to pay the costs. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, no matter what people from Westchester might tell you.

The Solution to This Specific Problem

I have a perfect solution to this issue. I had it all typed out, but I’m not sure if I want to share it on the blog. It’s such a good, obvious idea that I feel like I should take it to the AMPAS Board and pitch it, in exchange for a multi-picture deal.

I also want to have the money and crew to do a loving 4K UHD Special Edition of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. That’s right, I said it.

I’m going to hold the Academy Awards hostage (not literally, for all those folks who don’t understand jokes, or satire, or how to contextualize things they read before they screencap things and tweet them) until they concede my demands.

In a way, I’m also holding Netflix hostage! (See previous note.)

In short, I should be president of the Academy. Thank you.

Oscar Statuette
All this over a little statue that likely has a listening device in it. The iAwards.