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Random Thoughts Make the World Go'Round

An Oscar Conversation About Purpose


The 91st Academy Awards, AKA the Oscars, will be held this Sunday on ABC. As a bonafide movie nerd I love watching the awards, seeing the stars, and filling out my ballot to see if I can predict who will win (although I am rooting for Black Panther, my money is on Roma winning it this year). 

This has been an interesting year for the Academy Awards. Not because of the movies and performances nominated, but because now more than ever the Oscars seem to be at a crossroads regarding its purpose.

For the longest time the Academy Awards were intended to celebrate movies, spread the gospel of film and recognize the amazing performances of the year. The problem with that purpose was the ambiguity, and sheer difference of opinion on what constitutes great movies and great performances. After enormous backlash that the same kind of movies (and frankly the same kind of people) were at the center of the Oscar fanfare (#oscarssowhite), the Academy started changing to become more diverse, more accepting and more relevant. In addition to diversifying the nominees, the Academy has also been forced to diversify the movies it rewards with nominations, and has been asked the question why a super hero movie cannot be viewed as art just as much as a black and white silent movie.

 That is why the Oscars have shifted to include up to 10 movies in the best picture category, why it has invited more diverse members to be part of the Academy, and why it has been trying to shake up the event that is the Oscars. In ordered to remain relevant they need to adapt so that they can cater to a new generation of film lovers, and to the people that watch the Oscars’ broadcast.

That is where the identity crisis really kicks in. You see, as much as we want to think of the Oscars as an Awards show it is much more than that. The money spent on the rights to broadcast the show are astronomical, as are the costs to advertise within the show. Where else can you get 24 million viewers in one sitting? You can make the case that much more than a recognition event, the Oscar’s are a TV show. Much like the Superbowl is.

The trouble with The Academy Awards is that is riding the fence on what it wants to be. I was listening to the podcast “Big Picture” where Sean Fennessey and Amanda Dobbs discuss The Oscars, and they had that exact discussion. Is the purpose of the Academy Awards to recognize the best people in the industry or is its purpose to entertain the huge audience that watches the broadcast every year?                                

This point got magnified when there was an announcement that 4 technical categories were being removed from the telecast this year for the sake of time. Cinematography was included in that group. The outrage from the film community was immediate. Several big time industry players like Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino expressed what an awful decision it was to remove some of the most critical pieces of movie making from the telecast. The Academy changed its tune immediately, and had to back track.

The Oscars will continue to face these challenges until they find their purpose. Until they understand why they exist and what for. Until then, they will continue to make decisions that will divide and disengage their patrons.

So why am I writing about all this? Well, this is something that affects us as professionals and leaders all the time. Lack of purpose is one of the main reasons why projects get derailed, why employees become disengaged and why companies falter. It is impossible to make a clear decision when you don’t not know why you are making it and where it will lead you. You end up making decisions that try to be everything to everyone which leads to lackluster results. It is hard to have your cake and eat it too.

 For us to be more successful in our endeavors, we need to understand our purpose. The why we are doing this in the first place. If the Oscars could define that, they could make better decisions.

If they decide that they want to attract a larger audience, make the show more viewer friendly. Add montages, and big stars. Reward superhero movies and box office successes. Make it so the movies we are entertained by can have just as much a shot of winning as the art house films. If the Academy decides it is about rewarding the people in the industry, then the show should be centered around that, not in getting eyeballs. Make sure to include the people that matter. Make the show as long as it needs to be. Have segments centered around movie history.

 In other words, pick a team already.

You should do the same. When you are faced with disengagement and you don’t know what to do next, take a step back. As yourself: Why am I doing this? What is the purpose? Once you define what it is you are trying to achieve your decisions will follow suit.

Andre Mello is a Business Coach and is outraged Bradley Cooper is not getting more love this award season. Andre has been in Marketing and Leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with him, please visit www.wysecoaching.com.

Andre Mello