Deadline is reporting that there’s a whole bunch of confusion surrounding Damien Chazelle’s drumming movie Whiplash and what awards it’s eligible for. Apparently, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences has classified it as an “adapted script” on Oscar nomination ballots, despite the fact that Chazelle wrote the “largely autobiographical” script himself and that he “considers his script original.” For the Writers Guild’s awards, however, it has been deemed an original screenplay, meaning one organization says it’s based on a pre-existing work, and the other—along with its writer/director—says it’s not.
Flight screenwriter John Gatins was the first to point out this weird situation to Deadline, and he believes the whole thing is “a HUGE mistake,” to the point that he thinks it will disrupt the entire voting process and plunge the Academy Awards into Grammy-esque levels of irrelevancy—our words, not his. This is just the kind of white-knuckle excitement that only a weird difference in eligibility guidelines can bring, and we may never know the real story behind what happened. Except for the fact that Deadline knows exactly what happened, of course.
See, back in 2012, Chazelle and Whiplash’s producers decided to film one of its scenes in advance and use that to convince studios to finance it. Apparently, they liked that one scene so much that they entered it in a short film competition at Sundance and won an award for it. Because of that, The Academy now considers that short to be “previously produced or published material,” making the actual movie an “adapted screenplay” based on that one scene. It certainly seems like an arbitrarily literal reading of the rules for The Academy, but it doesn’t sound like it has any intention of going back and having people vote again, as Gatins hopes. Deadline says that “sources with knowledge of the situation at The Academy” basically just refer to the organization’s right to make decisions like this as it sees fit, even if Whiplash‘s producers don’t like it.