Academy Scientific or Technical Awards

American Cinematographer, May 1978 | Go to article overview

Academy Scientific or Technical Awards


At long last, the presentation of the Academy's Scientific or Technical Awards is staged with a class and style commensurate with the importance of these achievements to the film industry

After years of having been treated as a stepchild, the Academy's Scientific or Technical Awards presentation was finally brought in out of the cold on the evening of March 29 at a posh banquet for 200 select guests presented in the Versailles Room of the Beverly Hilton hotel.

Although these a9ards represent the very lifeblood of the film industry, in terms of technological progress, innovative techniques, advanced equipment and the enhanced quality and economies made possible by same, th5y have been swept under the rug in the recent past-much to the dismay of the hardworking, visionary scientists and engineers responsible for such mechanical and electronic miracles. Seven years ago they were quietly eased out of the annual telecast presentation-the rationale being that the show was chronically overlong and that such rarefied awards were of little interest to the general televisionviewing audience of non-technical souls numbering in the hundreds of millions around the globe.

While both assertions were undeniably true, the manner in which the Academy initially responded to the problem amounted to something of an industry-wide disgrace. Presented off-camera, the awards were hastily shoved into the hands of their recipients during commercial breaks in the telecast. Later, sensing that this procedure might be a bit shabby, the Academy took to presenting the awards at afternoon cocktail receptions held in the lobby of its plush new Beverly Hills headquarters. Still, that didn't quite do it-but the sit-down banquet this year, attended by the technical peers of those being honored, was staged (albeit informally) with a class and style commensurate with the importance of the awards.

The Academy's Scientific or Technical Awards, frequently agreed upon as the result of considerable loud-voiced bickering, are actually voted by the Academy Board of Governors, based upon recommendations by the 44-member Technical or Scientific Awards Committee, currently headed by Don Rogers, technical director of Samuel Goldwyn Studios. The decisions sometimes fail to please all of the people all of the time and Academy President Howard Koch acknowledged that fact at the banquet when he said, "Every awards show needs some controversy." He was referring to the fact that Panavision had refused to accept the three awards voted for its accomplishments this year: a Class Il (Academy Plaque) award for "improvements" to its extraordinary Panaflex camera, and two Class III (Academy Citation) awards for the Panalite camera-mounted controllable light and the Panahead gearhead, respectively. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Panavision's reasons for refusing the awards are far too complex to go into at this point and, in any event, could more clearly be explained by Panavision President Robert Gottschalk.]

After a brief preamble by Don Rogers, explaining the nature of the awards to be made, Koch was introduced and he, in turn, introduced Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck, who were to make the actual award presentations.

Douglas, long an enthusiastic booster of the "behind the scenes" aspects of filmmaking, observed, "The greatest stars of this year have not been actors, but special effects. Be careful, or you'll run us out of business.

"What you people do is difficult for many of us to appreciate. I get upset when the phone doesn't work, or I push the button and the TV doesn't go on. It's hard to make us aware of how people behind the scenes make things possible."

Peck, with his usual grace and modesty, said, "I'm not as technically minded as Kirk. It's difficult to stand here and try to understand the award I'm reading."

The highpoint of the evening was the presentation of the first Class I (Oscar statuette) award in ten years to Garrett Brown and Cinema Products' John Jürgens for the invention and development of the Steadicam stabilized body-mounted camera support. …

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