‘The Hurt Locker’ Producer Breaks Oscar Rules… Now What?

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Well, this is an interesting turn of events considering nothing like this has happened since I started covering movies back in 2003 as the Los Angeles Times is reporting The Hurt Locker co-producer Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Pictures has quite blatantly violated Oscar rules by sending out an e-mail blast to Academy members virtually begging for their vote all while offering up a back-handed slap to Avatar. Chartier has since sent out an apology email, but let’s face it once the rules have been broken they’ve been broken. It’s not like we’re talking about Major League Baseball here and a steroids scandal, this is bigger than that… this is the Oscars!

Both emails have been posted by the Los Angeles Times and just below is the original, rule-breaker:

I hope all is well with you. I just wanted to write you and say I hope you liked Hurt Locker and if you did and want us to win, please tell (name deleted) and your friends who vote for the Oscars, tell actors, directors, crew members, art directors, special effects people, if everyone tells one or two of their friends, we will win and not a $500M film, we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!

I’m sure you know plenty of people you’ve worked with who are academy members whether a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help!

best regards,

Nicolas Chartier Voltage Pictures

Big deal right? I know that’s what you’re thinking considering “begging” for votes is pretty much all it seems these people do. However, there is a difference between an all out marketing blitz of “For Your Consideration” advertisements in the pages of Variety and contacting Academy members directly and pretty much saying, “Vote for us and not them.”

Considering this is an email we’re talking about, here are the Academy’s rules specifically mentioning email correspondence:

E-mail that is sent to Academy members must adhere to the same regulations concerning content and appearance as direct mailings that are delivered by the post office or via other delivery methods. It may not extol the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual. It may not contain quotes from reviews about a film or an achievement, nor should it refer to other honors or awards, past or present, that have been received by either the film or those involved in the production or distribution of the film. Except as permitted in Regulation #5, e-mail to members may not include mention of, or links to, any Web site that promotes any eligible film.

So what comes of this? Well, the rules aren’t specific on penalties saying, “All penalties will be at the discretion of the Board of Governors and in response to the seriousness of the violation… [Penalties] might include the significant reduction of a company’s standard allotment of tickets to the Awards presentation. More serious violations could result in a film losing its eligibility for Awards consideration in one or more categories.”

I would imagine right about now Chartier is sending in every ticket he has, saying, “Take them all… I’ll stay home and watch it on ABC!”

The likelihood of The Hurt Locker losing its eligibility is slim to none. I would even wager Chartier will be able to attend the Oscars with his plus-one, but that still doesn’t mean this is all very interesting for us standers-by in an attempt to drum up some reason why the current front-runner could tumble making way for the $500 million elephant in the room or the Nat-zee feature from one QT.

Just below is Chartier’s apology letter:

Last week I emailed you regarding the Oscars next week, generally, and “The Hurt Locker,” in particular.

My email to you was out of line and not in the spirit of the celebration of cinema that this acknowledgement is. I was even more wrong, both personally and professionally, to ask for your help in encouraging others to vote for the film and to comment on another movie. As passionate as I am about the film we made, this was an extremely inappropriate email to send, and something that the Academy strongly disapproves of in the rules.

My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it. Being nominated for an Academy Award is the ultimate honor and I should have taken the time to read the rules.

I am emailing each person this very same statement asking to retract my previous email and requesting that you please disregard it.

I truly apologize to anyone I have offended.

Sincerely yours,

best regards,

Nicolas Chartier
Voltage Pictures, LLC

What do you think? Is punishment in order or is it silly for the Academy to even have such rules considering we all know behind-the-scenes dealings go on every day?