An Oscar nomination for a relatively unknown Christian film was rescinded on Wednesday on accusations that its composer used his leadership position in the Academy to improperly influence members to select the film.
Although critics and the film's composers were surprised when "Alone Yet Not Alone" received a nomination for Best Original Song for its song of the same name, not all individuals associated with the film were industry outsiders.
Bruce Broughton, who composed the song, is a former governor of the music branch and current member of the executive committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs said the body was cracking down on Broughton — not because he had emailed other members to help the film gain publicity — but because it was outside of what it deemed appropriate for someone holding a leadership position in the organization.
"No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage," Isaacs said.
In a statement to EW, Broughton did not mention any potential conflict of interest stemming from his leadership position, but instead suggested that the nomination had been yanked due to the influence of those holding more clout than him. The song, which was recorded by disability rights activist and author Joni Erickson Tada, beat out songs by Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Ed Sheeran.
"I'm devastated. I indulged in the simplest grass-roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that has months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it," Broughton wrote.
In an email released by CBS, Broughton asked members of the Academy to "boldly direct your attention to entry #57...This is merely a request for your consideration."
"I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any music branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song," he wrote.
CBS Ben Tracy asked Broughton if he could "imagine somebody getting your email, seeing your name, knowing your position at the Academy and saying, 'Well, I better vote for that'."
"No! No! I don't have any position at the Academy. I haven't been an Academy governor for almost two years," Broughton responded.
When the nomination was first announced, the composer openly acknowledged to Entertainment Weekly that he had tried to help boost the film's publicity.
"What happens is that the music branch of the Academy puts all the songs on a disc and I was concerned that this song would be really easy to overlook. So, yeah, I wrote some people and said, 'Could you just take a look.' That was literally the extent of the campaigning. I received in the mail songs from other films that were pressed and recorded CDs. We didn't do anything like that at all," Broughton said.
The Academy will not name another nominee, leaving the category with four possible winners. The remaining competition include songs from "Frozen," "Despicable Me 2," "Her," and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."