What message does Wes Anderson winning Best Live Action Short Oscar send out?

Wes Anderson
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The Academy’s decision to give the Live Action Short Oscar to a star-laden Wes Anderson film has raised eyebrows…

On Sunday, Wes Anderson picked up his first Academy Awards for The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar. It won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, a category that’s traditionally rewarded independent films, rather than Netflix-backed Roald Dahl adaptation with a major film director behind it.

The Live Action Short film category is attracting more and more high profile names to it, and there’s a real risk that’s squeezing out independent filmmakers from a genuine shot at Oscar gold.

None of this is a slight on Wes Anderson, and genuine congratulations to him on his long-overdue first Oscar.

Still, we’ve been contacted by a few independent filmmakers about the message it sounds out. The following words have been penned by Dan Turner, a British director who’s made shorts and features. Here’s what he has to say:

In 2016 Benjamin Cleary won the best live action short film Oscar for Stutterer, a film shot in East London on a wing and a prayer and with an unknown cast. 

Here’s the moment…

That Academy Award win led to a conversation after the Oscars with actor Mahershala Ali, and ultimately a feature film, starring Ali and Glenn Close on Apple TV called Swan Song, itself a film that received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

It’s the Hollywood dream. The dream that all independent filmmakers cling on to. The dream that it’s about the idea you have and the way you make your film that marks it out as special.

Cut to 2024, and the winner of the best live action short at the 96th Academy awards? The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar starring Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley and directed by Wes Anderson.

What was once a category that could propel new filmmakers and unknown actors into the spotlight, has suddenly become a closed door with the words “members only” written on it.

The Academy likes to portray itself these days as inclusive, and yes, it’s doing better. But by cutting off a vital lifeline to independent filmmakers around the world, in the best live action short category, they are setting a dangerous trend, that only known filmmakers with starry casts will do.

What’s more disturbing is that there is precious little outcry about it. Perhaps because most people only care about why happens in the big categories.

But the people who will feel most sore about it are those who have scrimped and saved, toiled and begged, and in some cases, quite literally bet the farm for a chance to enter a category they may have a slim chance at winning.

It’s disheartening to say the least.

If we close off these kinds of pathways to new and emerging filmmakers and exciting new talent it will be a very sad day indeed.

Dan isn’t the only person to relay similar thoughts to us, and it’s not the easiest topic to talk about, but none of this is aiming ire at Anderson and his cast. But it does feel like it needs talking about, and this piece is very much in that spirit.

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