Defending Steven Spielberg over his opposition to films debuting on streaming services competing for Oscars, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president John Bailey said on Sunday that the ace filmmaker has not only been misrepresented but also demonised by the media.
During his maiden visit to India, Bailey interacted with film students and journalists in Mumbai. When a scribe asked him if Spielberg’s reservations meant that traditional filmmakers were insecure of Netflix and content produced on the web, Bailey said there was no point singling out the Schindler’s List director on this issue.
“As a president, I have to be very careful about what I say in public because I just can’t express my own opinion. I can say this because Steven is a governor in the director’s branch that he was misrepresented. He was demonised for what he said and it was not completely accurate. There is a lot of misinformation. The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline, they look for stories.
“If they can promote something, which is a controversy, they would rather do that. There’s no point in singling out a Steven Spielberg or a Chris Nolan or a Ted Sarandos (Chief Content Officer at Netflix) on Netflix. We are all filmmakers, and we will find a way out,” John Bailey said.
Earlier in the year, Steven Spielberg, who is one of the members of the board of governors at the AMPAS, said he, with the support of other members, would propose a change in rule that would not allow films that debut on streaming services or have only a limited exclusive run in theaters to compete for Oscar awards.
The Oscar-winning director received a lot of flak with people suggesting he doesn’t understand the difficulties of an independent filmmaker. Many argued that had it not been for Netflix, a film like Roma, which won three Oscars including the best director for Alfonso Cuaron, wouldn’t have seen the light of day.
Speaking about the debate between filmmakers regarding films on web and on the big screen, John Bailey said there is ambiguity about “what a film is” and though the Academy was under a lot of pressure to change the rules for Oscar eligibility, it decided to wait and see how things progress in future.
“The Academy has decided that we are in the middle of a transition about what is a movie. Can it be streaming or does it have to play in cinema halls? There are partisans on both the sides and there are some who are ambivalent.
“We can’t decide because there are drawbacks and virtues for both. Does one exclude the other and if not then, how do you define it? So, the board of governors did a good thing by not changing the rules this year. There was a lot of pressure. But this was not the year to make changes, especially when the studios are changing. We will see where we are a year or two from now. Netflix will be different. We surely know Disney and Paramount will be different,” Bailey said.
John Bailey also mentioned big studios like Disney and Paramount will be launching their own streaming services and he believes that will change the scenario. He said, “There’s another revolution happening, which is the streaming revolution with Hulu, Amazon, Netlfix… But it’s going to get bigger than that because companies like Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros are starting their internal streaming services, which is going to get very difficult for Netflix. That’s why Netflix is creating more original content because they are going to lose access to Hollywood feature films.”
Also present was Governor of the Academy Carol Littleton. The interaction was moderated by director Madhur Bhandarkar and actor Sonali Kulkarni.