The announcement of Academy Award nominations on Tuesday revealed the strong presence of family connections in several major Oscar contenders. Among the 10 films nominated for Best Picture, many include members of high-profile relationships working together. One such example is the blockbuster Barbie, which was snubbed for Best Actress and Best Director, much to the disappointment of stars like Ryan Gosling. However, the film does feature two of these power couples – Margot Robbie and her husband Tom Ackerley, who are co-founders of LuckyChap Entertainment, the production company behind the film, and director Greta Gerwig, who is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay alongside her husband Noah Baumbach.
The 2024 Academy Award nominees have shown a notable trend of partnerships between directors and producers. For example, the team behind the best picture nominee Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, are also married. Director Justine Triet, nominated for best original screenplay for Anatomy of a Fall, shares a long-term relationship with co-writer Arthur Hariri and they have two children together. Other notable partnerships include May December writer Samy Burch, who worked with her husband Alex Mechanik on the film, and Jared Hess, co-director and co-writer of best animated short film nominee Ninety Five Senses with his wife Jerusha.
Several experienced individuals in the film industry have collaborated on various projects throughout the years. It may be a coincidence, but it is worth noting that many of them are now nominated for Oscars. According to Anna Smith, a film critic and host of the Girls on Film podcast, she sees this as a positive occurrence. She believes that these partnerships are a result of shared visions or complementary visions. Baumbach and Ackerley, for example, are strong allies for feminism and Baumbach’s male perspective was likely helpful and clever in their joint writing of the Barbie script while living together during lockdown.
This is a type of creative collaboration that is not new at all. In 1919, Mary Pickford, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, helped co-found United Artists studio with her future husband Douglas Fairbanks, along with Charlie Chaplin and DW Griffith, who directed Birth of a Nation. Thomas and Nolan became acquainted while studying at University College London and have been working together since their first short film, Doodlebug, which was directed by Nolan. Robbie introduced Ackerley to LuckyChap in 2014, along with friends Sophia Kerr and Josey McNamara. Gerwig and Baumbach met while working on Baumbach’s 2010 film Greenberg.
However, it is clear that the intense atmosphere of creating a film can present unique challenges for partners in a relationship. Rebecca Harrell Tickell and Josh Tickell, known for their critically acclaimed environmental documentaries such as The Big Fix, Kiss the Ground, and its sequel Common Ground, explain that the all-encompassing nature of film-making can be difficult to handle.
According to Harrell Tickell, our marriage and family are deeply intertwined with our films and mission, which can lead us to take successes and failures to heart. Tickell also mentions that while this connection provides great support, it can also blur the lines between work, family, and love.
Although there are clearly risks involved in collaborating on films, it is apparent that in this year’s Oscar race, there are also many advantages. Nolan and Thomas have been working on films together since their first short, while Robbie and Ackerley have taken advantage of Robbie’s acting career to support and promote the work of directors like Emerald Fennell and Megan Park. Despite being well-known directors with their own unique styles, Gerwig and Baumbach joined forces to write a script for Barbie, which may have seemed unlikely for either of them to do on their own.
The challenge of handling differences in creative opinions in a way that maintains personal relationships is a significant concern. According to Harrell Tickell, when we have disagreements, we usually find common ground or one of us is willing to compromise. However, if we strongly disagree, we take time to discuss our opposing views outside of the team. In resolving conflicts regarding our films, we both have a say and prioritize what is best for the film. Tickell believes that this can actually be a source of strength as it allows for the discovery of new, innovative ideas that neither of us may have thought of before.
Harrell Tickell believes that ultimately, the benefits are greater than the drawbacks when it comes to embracing partnerships. He acknowledges that working together makes us much more efficient and successful compared to working alone.