Who votes for the Oscars and how do they do it?

At this point in award season, the Academy may be looming like a monolith, ready to make its verdict on the best movies of the year. But who actually vote for the Oscars? Here’s a guide to the people and processes that determine the Academy Award nominations and winners of the year:

Who will vote for the Oscars?

The Academy Awards are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a massive group of industry professionals totaling more than 10,000 members, with nearly 9,500 eligible to vote. This is an increase of nearly 65% ​​from the number of votes reported a decade ago, thanks in part to the Academy’s initiatives to invite more women, people of color and filmmakers from around the world.

Who are the members of the Academy?

If someone has previously been nominated for an Oscar, it’s a good bet that person is also in the Academy (although some household names have turned down the invitation). The Academy describes its voice groups as “limited to film artists working on the production of theatrically released films” and divides membership into 17 branches.

What are the branches?

If it has a category at the Oscars, there’s an industry to go with it — with a few exceptions. In addition to Oscar voters with familiar categories such as cinematographers or directors, there are also affiliates for casting directors, executives, producers, and marketing and public relations, making up a total of 17 affiliates (plus general members who won’t fit into an existing affiliate). The acting categories are voted by the industry which is by far the largest, with over 1,300 members.

How do you become a member?

To join the Academy, candidates must be sponsored by two existing members of the candidate’s prospective Academy Branch. New nominees automatically receive membership without sponsorship.

Why are people campaigning for an Oscar?

Each year, the Academy publishes a full list of the films eligible for consideration; last year there were 366. Campaigning efforts are working hard to ensure that even a beloved movie doesn’t get lost between them. Even though these Academy members to make movies, that doesn’t mean they see as many movies as the average cinephile. Therefore, there is a lot of power in which movie studios can spend a lot of campaign dollars to get noticed.

How are the nominees chosen?

Each member will only vote for their industry’s categories in the nomination phase, along with their bids for the best photo. For industries without their own category, Academy members vote for only the best photo. Some industries have an extra early voting round that reduces contenders to shortlists; these include music categories, sound, visual effects, and makeup and hairstyling. The International Feature Film, Documentary and Short Film categories also reach their eventual nominees through this kind of bake-off process.

So how are international feature films and the short films nominated?

Only one film per country may be submitted for an international feature film. The Academy recently opened international voting to members of all industries, having previously relied on multiple committees. Those who participate must watch a percentage of the films submitted and submit a score for each film they watch; those scores determine the films that make the shortlist. Academy members who have seen all of the shortlisted films will be allowed to vote for the final nominees.

The shorts are determined in a similar process of volunteer member scores, resulting in short lists, with animated and documentary shorts limited to votes in their respective branches. (Live-action short is also voted on by members of the directing, writing, and production departments.) Preferred voting determines the final nominees from each of these short lists.

What is a Preferred Vote?

Once the nominees are in, only the best photo will take advantage of the preference system, but it will have a huge impact on what wins the night’s biggest prize. Voters are asked to rank the nominees from most to least favorite. If a movie gets more than 50% of the number one votes (a highly unlikely prospect in any year), it automatically wins the best movie. From there, the votes of the film that gets the fewest number one votes will be redistributed among the number two votes of the members who placed the film at number one. This process continues, eliminating the lowest vote earners and redistribution among the third and fourth favorites as necessary, until one movie crosses that 50% threshold. The goal is to award the movie that is a consensus favorite — the one most Academy members would call their favorite, or at least close to it.

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