Oscar voting
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Raise the bar with Oscar

by Heidi Levitt

The stage is set. Anticipation blows through the Hollywood Hills as strongly as the Santa Ana winds. It is both much ado about nothing and everything, all wrapped up into one tidy package of hype-machine. But, just as every good actor knows, anticipation can kill a scene.

This is pre-Oscar weekend, and the stakes are high. The PR gurus have but moments to go, to promote and change minds. The nominees have moved on from interviews, to finalizing their outfits and acceptance speeches. I have been powering through all the documentaries and foreign films, the shorts, documentary shorts and short animated films that I missed.

It takes a village to get a film made and it takes many more villages of committed people, word of mouth, print advertising, on-line campaigns, good reviews, film festivals and most importantly, the fortune of having a good distributor to get a film seen in the theatre. So now, as I am getting ready to cast my on-line ballot, I am a little sad that even though the nominations are filled with excellence, the choices before me are short on diversity, in both color and gender.

In just 27 years from now, the so-called racial minority groups will become the majority of the U.S. population.

So isn’t it about time to nurture and pay attention to stories and artists who represent a minority that will soon become the majority?

It will take bold and tenacious artists — from writers to actors, to producers to directors — to make films reflecting this majority. And, ultimately, they will need the support of the financiers and the studios.

I have been playing in this rodeo for over twenty years and I know how hard it is to get financing, even with one white male star. But it is clear, the time has come to open up the process because we are on the bubble of a new America, a globally connected population that continues to change. And the change isn’t moving back to a white America, the change is moving to a new mosaic of America eager to see films and stories that reflect them. It is abundantly clear from the current bonanza of new series, popping up on network television, cable and online, that new programming is taking hold, because the audience is watching.

So as we tune into the Oscars on Sunday night, let us celebrate what we have seen and start thinking ahead. It is time for us — from women to transgender to non-white Americans. It is time to “lean in,” as Sheryl Sandberg said, and make even more Academy worthy films. Let’s raise the bar higher next Oscar season.

Heidi Levitt

About Heidi Levitt

Heidi Levitt is a casting director, producer and the creator of the iPhone App, Actor Genie. She has cast such films as The Artist, Nixon, JFK, Cesar Chavez, The Joy Luck Club, Lakeview Terrace, and many more. She is currently developing a series with the Oscar winning filmmaker, Alex Gibney. The series, “Exiles On Main Street,” deals with culture clash and the American immigrant experience. Heidi is a graduate of Barnard College and The American Film Institute where she has served as adjunct faculty. For more information on Heidi, visit www.heidilevittcasting.com, www.actorgenie.com, Facebook, and Twitter @theactorgenie.

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