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Exclusive: Academy of Motion Pictures CEO Says New ‘Crisis Team’ Will Handle Future Fiascos Like the ‘Slap’

By Eliana Dockterman for TIME

Since taking over the position of CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last July, Bill Kramer has spent a lot of time putting out fires. In the past two years, the Oscars ratings sank to their lowest in the show’s history. The Academy has tasked Kramer with convincing viewers who haven’t tuned into the Academy Awards for years—and aren’t watching many of the nominated films—to check out the show again.

Kramer previously spearheaded the launch of the Academy Museum, which has brought in over 1 million visitors since opening in September of 2021. Despite much handwringing over the threat TikTok and YouTube pose to film and TV, Kramer proudly notes that half of those visitors are under the age of 40. He plans to return the Oscars to their former glory by focusing on the same behind-the-scenes stories about artists that have attracted that large, young audience to the museum. He also plans to bring back the technical awards that weren’t broadcast last year and add fun live performances.

But he has to do so while contending with two recent scandals, one from the 2022 ceremony and one that took place just before voting for 2023 nominations closed. Almost a year after Will Smith slapped Oscars host Chris Rock at last year’s show, the Academy is still dealing with the fallout. Kramer says a “crisis team” has been put in place for the first time in Academy history to handle other possible surprise moments.

The first real test of the new Academy leader came early in 2023 with the second of the two controversies, when social media posts from celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton helped Andrea Riseborough win a surprise Best Actress nomination for her performance in To Leslie, a little-seen indie drama. The To Leslie campaign was largely based on text message, email, and social media appeals instead of expensive trade magazine ads and billboards, and certain advocates were accused of breaking Academy rules by naming other potential nominees in their petitions for Riseborough. Riseborough’s nomination also seemingly boxed out two Black actors who had been considered likely nominees, Viola Davis for The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler for Till, underlining the Academy’s historical failure to recognize Black women across categories. The Academy launched an investigation into the campaign but decided not to rescind Riseborough’s nomination.

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Photo by Mirko Fabian:

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