Are We Any Closer To a Stunt Coordinator Oscar Category?

The Oscars (Getty Images)

ActionFest, the annual all-action-movie film festival in Asheville, N.C., honored stunt coordinator Jack Gill this weekend with its Man of Action Award. Gill used the platform to discuss his ongoing campaign to add an Oscar category for stunt coordinators, explaining to a panel audience why it’s taken 21 years — and how he’s talking to the voting Academy members of a special committee, one by one — to convince them that stunt professionals are artists just like other film technicians honored on Hollywood's biggest night.

Speaking to Movieline after the panel, Gill (whose credits include The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, Con Air, Bad Boys II, Redbelt, and Fast Five) cited several of the Academy's concerns — including the impression that technology will eventually make stunt coordinators obsolete. “I think they’re such an old-school type company," he said, "that they’ve gotten to where they’re now afraid if they put a stunt coordinator category and then five years down the line, digital effects take over everything, what do they now do with the stunt coordinator category?" But, Gill added, even digital milestones like Avatar rely heavily on stunt coordinators. "We’ve proven over the years that it’s really not going to go away.”

During the panel, Gill also explained that he’s not asking for individual stunt men to get Oscars. The stunt coordinator is the artist who pulls off the dangerous fights, crashes and explosions and keeps everybody safe. And pretty much all the Best Picture nominees have a stunt coordinator, whether they’re action or drama films.

As such, Gill has proposed one nominee per movie to an Academy leadership that votes on new categories every year in a closed meeting. The only way to change voters' minds, he said, is to convince every single member that stunt coordinators deserve an award. And while you may be thinking, “Who needs a longer Oscars?”, Gill even offered to keep the stunt Oscars out of the main show and give them out during the red carpet pre-show.

The Academy didn’t go for that. I suggested to Gill that stunts be included in the scientific and technical awards, which are pre-recorded and shown in a montage on Oscar night. “We tried that too,” Gill replied. “We tried to go in the technical awards and they also dumped us on that. They said if they were going to try and get us in, the scientific awards would be an option, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s the vote that’s the problem.”

Indeed, Gill said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson has been amenable to discussions, as was Bruce Davis before her. It’s a matter of educating individual voters — a cause that, after more than two decades of effort, may yet find its tipping point in social media and such events like Actionfest, which itself plans to start a campaign to get stunt fans involved in the Oscar movement. Visit www.actionfest.com for more information in the near future.

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