Bill Mechanic Resigns from Academy Board Insisting “We Have Failed”

April 22, 2018

In a recent article, the Hollywood Reporter exposed some of the pressure and inner conflicts of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board members through a resignation letter penned by Bill Mechanic that was not intended to be shared publicly. Indeed, the Academy has been in turmoil since this year’s Oscar ratings took a plunge hitting an all-time low which is 6.5 million fewer viewers from the previous year. Just four years ago, a total of 43.7 million viewers tuned into the prestigious telecast whereas only 26.5 million did so this time around.

Mechanic is an Oscar-nominated producer for his work on the film Hacksaw Ridge, he’s a former studio chief, and was a co-producer of the 82nd Academy Awards. Mechanic has also served as one of three representatives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s executives branch on the 54-member board. In a letter of resignation dated April 12 and addressed to Academy president John Bailey, Mechanic reveals what he believes to be both his and the Academy’s failures regarding the direction the organization has been going as of late.

For example, he insists the annual Oscar telecast is “a long and boring show;” on matters of inclusion, he suggests, “This is the industry’s problem far, far more than it is the Academy’s;” and without naming the Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, Mechanic sounds an alarm about the Academy losing several employees in a fashion which, he says, “seems more like a ‘purge’ to stifle debate.” And regarding the many allegations of sexual misconduct in the industry and the Academy’s subsequent implementation of a code of conduct, Mechanic states it was a mistake to play “Moral Police.”

In response to Mechanic’s resignation, the Academy issued a statement saying, “The Academy thanks William Mechanic for his five years of service on the Board of Governors, where he represented the members of the Executives Branch.”

Here is the letter:

 

John Bailey

President, AMPAS

Dear John:

There’s a moment when if you fail to make an impact, the right thing to do is make for the exits. After Saturday’s meeting, I’m at that moment and I respectfully must resign from the Board of Governors.

I have great love and respect for the Academy. I grew up loving movies and watching the Academy Awards, never dreaming of being a nominee, producing the show, and certainly not becoming a Governor. Eventually all of these things actually came to pass and it was exciting when I was originally elected to the Board, serving with so many distinguished legends side-by-side in a non-hierarchical environment.

I left the Board after one term, but decided to run again a couple of years ago when many of the decisions of the Board seemed to me to be reactive rather than considered. I felt I could help provide some perspective and guidance.

But it’s exceedingly clear to me since returning to the Board that things have changed and there is now a fractured environment which does not allow for a unified, strategically sound, vision. I haven’t had any real impact, so now it’s time to leave.

I feel I have failed the organization. I feel we have failed the organization.

We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the Industry’s problem far, far more than it is the Academy’s. Instead we react to pressure. One Governor even went as far as suggesting we don’t admit a single white male to the Academy, regardless of merit!

We have failed to move the Oscars into the modern age, despite decades of increased competition and declining ratings. Instead, we have kept to the same number of awards, which inherently means a long and boring show, and over the past decade we have nominated so many smaller independent films that the Oscars feel like they should be handed out in a tent. Big is not inherently bad and small is not inherently good. Moving into the modern age does not mean competing with the Emmys for non-theatrical features.

We have failed to solve the problems of the Museum, which is ridiculously over its initial budget and way past its original opening date. Despite having the best of the best inside the Academy membership, we have ignored the input of our Governors and our members.

We have failed our employees. Over the past seven years, we have watched dedicated employees of the Academy be driven out or leave out of frustration. Certainly, some refreshing of an organization is a good thing, but that doesn’t seem the case here; this seems more like a “purge” to stifle debate and support management as opposed to the needs of the Academy.

We have failed to provide leadership. Yes, that includes the Presidency, which with a one year term creates instability, but moreover the CEO role has become much broader and far reaching, and the results are erratic at best. It also includes 54 Board of Governors, which is so large it makes decision-making difficult and makes it way too easy for the silent majority to stay silent.

Many of the problems I’m talking about come not from malfeasance but rather from the silence of too many Governors. A vocal few people are insistent that the problems are not really problems or would be too damaging to the Academy to admit. Not facing your problems means you are not addressing those issues and, guess what, problems don’t go away–they simmer under the surface and, if anything, get worse.

You can’t hide the drainage of employees, the cataclysmic decline in the Oscar ratings, the fact that no popular film has won in over a decade; that we decided to play Moral Police and probably someone inside the Academy leaked confidential information in order to compromise the President; that the Board doesn’t feel their voice is being heard with regard to the Museum; that we have allowed the Academy to be blamed for things way beyond our control and then try to do things which are not in our purview (sexual harassment, discrimination in the industry).

Perhaps I’m wrong about all of this and if so my resignation will simply make things better. If that’s the case, so be it. If it’s not, then I truly hope the majority of Governors will take action. Check in with our membership and get their input. If they respond as many have with me, then change the leadership of the Academy and put the Academy’s interests above any personal likes or dislikes.

Respectfully,

Bill Mechanic

 

Let the Academy Awards Rev Up Your Acting Career

February 25, 2012

There’s the Gregorian calendar year, the Chinese calendar year, the Mayan calendar, and many other quantifiers of an epoch.  But an actor’s year is marked by the Annual Academy Awards.

Another year has passed, and this Sunday we’ll all be tuned in to see what the darlings of the film industry are wearing, we’ll laugh at their insider jokes, applaud the amazing performances, glean insights from riveting speeches, and hopefully, be inspired by their triumphs.

With all the hoopla, it seems to me the acceptance speeches are the portion of the show that truly engages and moves the populace along with the press. And for good reason; let’s face it, we all want to know how these luminaries got to the pinnacle of such an awe- inspiring and challenging career.

When you hear actors’ speeches, does that get you to thinking about what you might say if you had the grit, determination, talent, wherewithal and good fortune to bag an Academy Award? Who would you thank?  Would it be adlibbed or planned in advance? Thoughts of all those acting classes, headshots, auditions, acquired skills, odd jobs, commercials, and a variety of other projects you’d done would be swimming through your head. Think about it, you’d be so grateful you stuck with it and persevered through the minimizing comments like, “Oh, like everyone else in this town, you want to be an actor?”  

Hooray for those actors who actually get recognized! They’ve made the necessary
sacrifices to reach the top.  And whether anyone out there in TV land agrees with the decisions made Sunday night or not, they paid the price to be the best. Nobody gives it to you for free. At that level, you have to earn it.

Have you been crossing things off your to-do list on behalf of your acting career? No?! Get going!  Dare to dream! Think of yourself up there holding Oscar in your hands thanking everyone you know, and be grateful you’ve been given the talent and opportunity to act. Yes, there’s luck involved, but if you don’t put yourself in place to be lucky, well then, you are unlucky indeed. Get out that to-do list and start checking off items this Academy Awards year. Get new headshots, get in class, network, sing, do theatre, audition for a webisode–go, go, go!

There will be more Academy Awards–one year at a time. Hope to see you there!