Oscar rule changes: Tighten up acting, documentary feature races; loosen producer and shorts eligibility

Sure it is still only June but it is never too early to start thinking about the Oscars. On Friday, the academy released the updated rules for the 87th annual edition of the Academy Awards, which will take place on Feb. 22, 2015. 

Let’s break them down category by category.

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BEST PICTURE (Rule 16)
The limit has been three producers per picture but that number was subject to change when those MIA from the ballot petitioned the academy. Indeed, this year’s Best Picture champ “12 Years a Slave” saw five producers take home Oscars, including Brad Pitt

To expand the number of nominated individuals, without changing the limit of three, the academy has decided to count those producing pairs who have been in business together for at least five years and made at least two previous film as just one single producer; previously such a team would have had to make five films together. The caveat remains that the executive committee can still add any addtional qualified producer. 

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS/SUPPORTING ACTOR/SUPPORTING ACTRESS (Rule 6)
This one is a bit of a headscratcher. The reminder list that is send to Oscar voters will now be limited to 10 actors and 10 actress per picture. However, regardless of all those “For Your Consideration” ads out there that tout category placement, the voters still will decide where they want to put their nominees.  

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Pharrell Williams
among 271 invited to join academy

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE (Rule 7)
DVD screeners are now required as part of the submission process, eliminating the screenings that committee members had to attend. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE (Rule 11)
To be eligible, a documentary feature must play in both Los Angeles and New York in the same year. It must screen at least four times per day, with at least one of those beginning between 6 pm and 10 pm;  advertising must run in at least one major newspaper; and it must be reviewed from either the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times. 

BEST SONG (Rule 15)
Another interesting twist, as established musical groups can now submit tunes under the group name, rather than individually. However, if they opt to do this, they only get one Oscar to share between them. When the members of a quartet such as U2 want to be considered as individuals, they run up against the rules which dictate “no more than two statuettes will normally be given in the Original Song category. A third statuette may be awarded when there are three essentially equal writers of a song. The Music Branch Executive Committee has the right, in what it alone determines to be a very rare and extraordinary circumstance, to award a fourth statuette.”

Full List: 271 new Oscar voters 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN (Rule 17)
The contributions of the chief digital designer can now be recognized alongside those of the production designer and set decorator. 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT/DOCUMENTARY SHORT/LIVE ACTION SHORT (Rule 19)
There are two more ways to be eligible for consideration: win one of the listed festivals or a medal at the Student Academy Awards. 

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