It’s no secret that the VFX industry is fighting an uphill battle for the recognition it truly deserves. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Tinseltown’s most glamorous night, the Oscars. Recently announced changes to the awards’ annual telecast could lessen the chances of things getting better any time soon.
The Academy has announced that the 2019 event will introduce a new category for ‘popular film’, alongside a shortened run time of just three hours and an earlier airdate of February 9th. The latter is intended to combat the ‘awards fatigue’ that can set in by the time the Oscars rolls around. It has been widely acknowledged that the changes have been made due to pressure from the ceremonies broadcasters, the Disney-owned ABC network, after viewing figures fell to a record low this year.
Unsurprisingly, the changes have set the internet ablaze with scolding hot takes and the film community at large has hit back at the decisions. Some believe it spells the end of the film industry as we know it, cementing the dominance of endless sequels, remakes and adaptations. Others have seen it as an unwieldy way of acknowledging the cultural significance of films like Marvel’s Black Panther, without nominating them for the coveted ‘Best Picture’ award.
Whatever the case may be, few seem to be acknowledging the detrimental effects these changes could have on the ‘Best Visual Effects’ award, and similar ‘below the line’ categories. An unfortunate downside of the shorter telecast is that several awards will be handed out during ad breaks, then edited down and aired later on in the broadcast. Categories that will be relegated to the ad breaks are yet to be confirmed, but it seems likely to be those deemed ‘technical’, which includes visual effects, sound editing, and costume design.
Needless to say that for visual effects artists, one of the more under-paid and underappreciated factions within Hollywood, an Oscar nomination, can provide an invaluable career boost. Not to mention the deserved recognition it brings after months, if not years, of sitting in front of a computer screen. For the hundreds of artists that work on each film, such an award is a source of immense pride, particularly when many of them will go uncredited for their efforts.
Often deemed a ‘technical’ category, many know that VFX is inherently artistic, and no less worthy of praise than cinematography or writing. With the film industry becoming increasingly reliant on studios and the rising demand for high quality effects, the VFX industry and the artists who inhabit it should be rising to the fore. Being relegated to a hastily edited montage at the end of the night will surely stunt the growth that a platform like the Oscar telecast can provide, setting the industry back by years.