Each year, the producers in charge of the Oscar telecast implore, cajole, practically beg the Oscar nominees to ditch the long list of thank yous and speak from the heart if they win. And every year, once those names are called and the shocked winners reach the podium, the slips of paper inevitably emerge and a roll call of names is read.
This year, producers Reginald Hudlin and David Hill are trying a new tact. At the 35th annual Nominees lunch on Monday, the producers asked each nominee to fill out a “scroll card” that includes their list of people to thank. Then, the producers say, the names will scroll along the bottom of the screen while the winner uses his/her 45 seconds to say something of greater worth.
To illustrate their point, Hudlin and Hill ran tape of last year’s Best Short Documentary winners Dana Perry and Ellen Goosenberg Kent. The two won for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, which focused on military veteran suicide. Kent soaked up much of the 45 seconds reading off a list of thank yous before Perry graciously pushed her aside to add in quickly before the music played them off that her son died of suicide and it was a subject worth discussing — an important statement but one that was truncated due to the time restraints and the obligatory list.
The producers also made the argument that the scroll could be even better than a shout-out, because it’s something that can be screen-shot and framed. “Words are written on the winds,” they said. “A screen grab of your scroll can be kept forever.”
Could the scroll solve this Oscars problem and lead to a more entertaining and more unpredictable evening? Maybe. The danger is, of course, that a nervous winner will shrink from the moment and revert to the traditional list of thank-yous, treating viewers to a double dose of boredom: humdrum thank yous that can be both heard and seen.