Russell Williams: Behind The Camera

Two-time Academy Award-winning sound mixer and recordist Russell Williams recently visited Furman University to talk with students here about how exactly the Academy Awards, filmmaking, and studio decisions work, thus giving the students a look behind the scenes at what happens behind the camera.

Behind The Academy

Students got a look at how exactly someone gets into the Academy. This has been quite the controversial topic in the past few years thanks to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign started by April Reign. When nominees were announced in 2015, no non-caucasian actors or actresses were nominated in any major categories. How did it end up that way? To understand how so few people are nominated, you have to first understand how few people do the nominating.

Behind the Nominations

Williams explained to Furman students that there are two ways for someone to get into the Academy. The first is that you can win an Academy Award. Simple enough, right? The second way is that two members of the Academy can nominate someone within their field of work for membership to the Academy. After the initial nomination, the panel meets and interviews multiple people, deciding by a unanimous vote who will be let into the Academy and who won’t. These are the people that choose who gets the coveted Oscars.

Behind the Studio Walls

So how do the studios keep producing movies that will garner the awards? The studios use the so-called “Summer Tent-Pole” movies like the superhero movies we’ve all gotten so used to seeing to earn money at the box office. The profits from those movies are then used to fund the movies that are meant to win the awards, which are known as Oscar bait.

Luckily, this year, the Academy seems to have gotten the message and has nominated more non-caucasian actors and actresses for awards. That’s not all though, as more minorities are being recognized for their contributions behind the scenes as well. If you want to check out this year’s ballot, you can see it here.

Thank you, Russell Williams, for coming to Furman and sharing your experiences with us as well as opening our eyes to how everything really works so we will be more informed on Sunday, February 26th, when the Oscars air on ABC.

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