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Issue 21March 27, 2022

Believe it or not, there is actually a category in the Academy Awards for Best Original Musical. Don’t believe us, look up Rule 15 (I.C) of the Academy Awards. We’ll wait…

“Why have I never heard of this?” you may be asking yourself. The answer is that the category has never been activated because the qualifications are so stringent. 

Here are the eligibility requirements:

  • An original musical consists of not fewer than five original songs by the same songwriter or songwriting team. 

  • The songs must be created specifically for the eligible feature-length motion picture. 

  • Each song must further the storyline of the motion picture. An arbitrary group of songs unessential to the storyline will not be considered eligible. 

In other words no stage adaptations and no jukebox musicals. The films have to be musicals from their conception and the songs must be in service to the story. Sounds a lot like our Movie Musical Manifesto.

Finally, and most importantly, there have to be at least nine of these movies in any one year before the Academy even considers activating the category.

The closest the Academy ever came to activating the category was in 2004 when at the time, the rules stated there only needed to be five eligible films, and then three would get nominated. The following is an excerpt from filmmaker Dan Mirvish’s article in the Huffington Post.
“I had directed a movie that year that actually met all the necessary requirements—a little independent real estate musical called Open House. I recruited three other films, the South Park guys' puppet spoof Team America, Disney's animated Home on the Range, and Neil Young's obscure Greendale."
"But we needed another eligible film. So I teamed up with some fellow filmmakers, went to Germany (why not?) and shot another movie musical in ten days, ultimately to be called Half Empty.

All five films were submitted on time, and all met every nuanced rule of the Academy. But when the Board of Governors found out that the Music Branch had a category on the books even they hadn't heard of, they blithely canceled the category for that year, and changed the rule to the next-to-impossible requirement for nine films that stands now.”
How to Win an (Oscar) Award? -- Part 1

Dan Mirvish made a two-part documentary that gives the full spectacular story. After failing to activate the category he went on to start the Indie Musical Challenge to inspire indie filmmakers to make more musicals and activate the category.

It hasn’t happened yet, but you better believe we at The Barn are going to do everything in our power to activate it. Thanks for the inspiration, Dan!

Dan Mirvish also has a new film out called 18 ½, about a White House transcriber who is thrust into the Watergate scandal when she obtains the only copy of the infamous 18 1/2-minute gap in Nixon's tapes. The film is currently doing the festival circuit and getting rave reviews, and Dan just won “Best Director” at the Manchester Film Festival. He also has a chapter on movie musicals in his book The Cheerful Subversive's Guide to Independent Filmmaking. Follow Dan on Instagram @dmirvish or Twitter @DanMirvish.

• 3.26 | Netflix’s Diana The Musical sweeps the board at this year’s Razzie Awards [Deadline]

• 3.23 | CODA is being developed into a stage musical by Deaf West [NY Times]

• 3.22 | Ciara joins The Color Purple movie musical [Vulture]

• 3.22 | UK chicken factory jukebox musical Chuck Chuck Baby starts shooting in Wales [Screen Daily]

• 3.21 | Jarrod Spector cast as Steven Spielberg in Bruce, the Broadway musical about the making of Jaws. [Deadline]

• 3.20 | Spielberg announced he will never direct another movie musical. [Vanity Fair]

• 3.17 | Netflix releases the ‘Green Green Dress’ deleted scene from Tick, Tick…Boom! [YouTube]

• 2.24 | Cinco Paul to make animated directorial debut on Winter Wonderland, from Imagine/Warner Music Group [Deadline]

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"Rooster Revue" is edited by Matt Andrews and Jeffrey Simon with contributions from the entire team at The Barn. Read past issues in the archive

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