The How the Academy Awards work.


How do the Academy Awards work?

Every year, the stars of Hollywood and fans alike gear up and begin creating “Oscar buzz.” The Oscar buzz generally begins in the middle of winter, when nominations are announced. These nominations of course help determine who will win the Academy Award for that category, whether it is Best Actor, Dramatic Effects, and the all-revered Best Picture. Once nominations are announced, the buzz gets even louder as people start guessing who they think they will a certain award. Then the big night of the actual Academy Awards Ceremony, or Oscars, is usually about a month after nominees have been announced. The night of the ceremony is a television event as huge celebrities have dresses and tuxedos custom-made and they begin to create fashion, beauty and hair trends. It’s a night of gossip and it’s a night of movies but how really do the Oscars work and who determines the winners or for that matter, the nominees? Here’s an inside look that will answer those questions and determine just how the Oscars work.

What is known as ‘The Academy’ is actually the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which was formed in 1927. This group consists of over six thousand people in the filmmaking industry and although they may only be in the spotlight, so to speak, once a year, the Academy is involved in many different projections involving film preservation, and constantly striving to find new technology that will make huge advancements in the world of filmmaking. The Academy has many different departments, all of which focus on one particular area of filmmaking. The departments are filled with members of the Academy and the members can decide to join the Academy only after they have been invited to do so. The members then cast their ballots to determine who will be the winner of a certain category.

While the Academy is the group that hands out the awards, most people often refer to the ceremony as the Oscars. This is because the golden statue that winners receive is referred to as Oscar and although there are many different theories as to how that came to be, there is only one that the Academy credits with the origin of the nickname. That was when Margaret Herrick, a librarian at the Academy, remarked that the statue greatly resembled her Uncle Oscar. The remark was made in passing and no one thought anything else of it until a newspaper columnist referred to the statue by the same name in 1934. From that point on, the statue was known as Oscar and the Academy officially recognized the nickname in 1939.

Of course the Academy gave the statue a great deal of thought before determining what it would look like and without an explanation, it can still be difficult to determine what the statue is doing or what meaning there is to it. The statue is actually a knight who is holding a sword. The knight stands atop a reel of film that has five spokes coming out of it. These five spokes represent the five original departments of the Academy which are: Directors, Actors, Writers, Producers, and Technicians. And anyone who has ever heard a winner exclaim that the statue is quite heavier than they thought and that’s because the statue is quite heavy, weighing 8.5 pounds and standing at 13 inches tall. It’s the metal alloy, the gold plating, and the marble stand that all contribute to the statue’s weight.

Although the members of the Academy are ultimately responsible for choosing the winners, there are certain rules that are to be followed. Of course, the movie has to fall within the appropriate year, which is anytime from January to December the year before the nominations were announced. But not all movies are considered to be eligible by the Academy. The Academy won’t even consider a movie unless a producer or distributor of the movie sends an Official Credits Form into the Academy. Not only does this tell the Academy that this movie has been requested for eligibility but it also provides a complete listing of who worked on the movie and in what capacity. This is information the Academy needs when picking nominations for different categories.

Before entering a film for eligibility, the producers and distributors of the film must first determine if the film is eligible. There are four main requirements that will make a film eligible for nomination: the film must be over forty minutes in length; the premier of the movie must have been held in a movie theater during the appropriate year; at the premier it must have been shown in 35mm film format, 70mm film format or 24-frame progressive scan digital format. The movie must have also played for seven days straight in an L.A. County movie theater and have required paid admission.

The Academy then gathers all of the forms that have been submitted and create a list of credits based on those forms. The list the Academy creates is officially called the Reminder List of Eligible Releases. This form is mailed to each member of the Academy along with their nomination ballots in January. Because the Academy is divided into different departments, generally only those departments are eligible to vote for categories pertaining to their department. This means that only actors will vote on categories such as Best Actress and Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Every member of the Academy is eligible to vote for Best Picture as this encompasses all departments and areas of the film. Foreign films are nominated by select people from different departments after the films have been submitted by different nations. Each foreign country is only allowed to submit one film per year.

When a member chooses their nominations for the different categories, they can enter up to five nominations per category and they will list these nominations in order of preference. While most members generally only list the nominations by film name, actors will name specific actors that they want nominated. Whether an actor is nominated for a leading role or a supporting role is decided by the individual member however, one actor cannot be nominated for both categories for the same film. The Academy will place the nominee in whichever category they qualify for first. The members of the Academy then mail in their list of nominees and those lists are compiled and sent to a third-party accounting company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, so that they may tally the results. They will then mail the list of the most nominations back to the Academy and the nominees will be announced shortly after that during a press conference. The ballots are then mailed to the members of the Academy and they have two weeks to complete them and return them to PricewaterhouseCoopers, who again tally results and place all of the winners into individually sealed envelopes.

But during all of this time, it’s not only the members of the Academy and the general public that are interested in the nominations and votes but also the production companies who are hoping that their movie will win an award. They will generally mail members copies of their film to the Academy members and they may also prepare a special screening so that the members can see the film and then vote on it. And as the Oscars draw even closer, thousands of workers including caterers, carpenters, artists, and musicians are busy getting the theater where the awards are held prepared. All of this so that on the big night, stars can waltz down the red carpet while being interviewed about fashion, the movie they’re there for, and other tidbits of personal information that will keep the world talking for at least a few days!


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