Oscars revise documentary rules by sending out screeners year-round

Academy members of the documentary branch were sent an e-mail today explaining next year’s rules changes. The previously reported idea that only films reviewed by the Los Angeles Times or New York Times are eligible is now in effect. Additionally, branch members will receive screeners year-round rather than in end of year panels that only include a handful of submissions.

The e-mail, signed by Rob Epstein, Michael Moore, and Michael Apted says, “Eighteen months ago, a proposal was made within the Documentary Branch Executive Committee to bring us in line with most other branches in the Academy, where every active branch member can vote for the branch’s five nominees.”

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Eliminating the scoring system where voters rated a film between 6 and 10, now all members of the Documentary Branch will receive every submitted feature documentary in the form of a screener. Then a preferential ballot will be used where voters rank their top 15 films. A shortlist of 15 films will be released after that. Active branch members can then select their five choices for the documentary feature nominees.

After 30 days following their films theatrical release, filmmakers can submit their film as a screener. Their film must be reviewed by the New York Times or Los Angeles Times. The e-mail explains, “As a fail-safe, the Executive Committee instituted a liberal appeals process wherein all the filmmaker has to do is say, ‘Hey, my doc played at the Film Forum and the Times forgot to review it!’, and this will be investigated.”

Once a final ballot is decided upon, all members can vote. Previously, they were required to see all nominees in a theater. That is no longer a requirement.

The documentary branch made these decisions unanimously in December.

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