SAG Awards voters, check your in-box as nomination ballots arrive today

And they're off.

Wednesday (Nov. 18) marks the beginning of a jam-packed six weeks before Oscar ballots are sent out on Dec. 30. The 1,200 members of the SAG Awards nominating committee will be getting access to their online ballots today. They only have until Dec. 7 to fill in the five categories — ensemble and four individual acting races. Nominations will be announced two days later. 

Click here to see ups and downs of Oscar races over entire awards season

Compare this accelerated schedule to those of the other leading guilds. PGA and WGA nominations don't even open until Dec. 1 while the DGA starts canvassing its members on Dec. 2. PGA balloting closes on Jan. 2, two days later for the WGA and not until Jan. 11 for the DGA; that latter date comes three days after Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 8.

Last year SAG voters didn't get a "Selma" DVD and had to attend special screenings. However, those were held only in Los Angeles and New York and the members of the nominating committee hail from all parts of the country and abroad. That historical drama, which was packed with top-notch talent, was snubbed at these performance prizes and went on to be blanked by the acting branch of the academy. 

This year it is unlikely that SAG voters will see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in time to consider its performances so don't look for screen vet Harrison Ford to figure in these nominations. However, the AFI Awards postponed the announcement of its winners from Dec. 7 to Dec. 16 just to make sure the jury saw this sci-fi epic, which has its world premiere in Los Angeles on Dec. 14. 

And several other leading awards contenders may not get screeners out in time to SAG voters. While these films could be made available online that is not an ideal way to appreciate the scope of "The Hateful Eight" and "The Revenant."

The former is from Quentin Tarantino who missed the deadline for sending out "Django Unchained" SAG screeners three years ago, thereby depriving Christoph Waltz of a chance at a bid; however, he overcame this slight to go on to win the Oscar. And the latter is by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu whose "Birdman" won Best Ensemble at these awards last year before taking the top Oscar. However, that film about actors had a slew of screenings for SAG voters, often followed by Q&As with Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone all of whom reaped bids from their fellow guild members. 

And then there is "Joy," David O. Russell's new film about a single mother (Jennifer Lawrence) who strikes it rich with an invention. While there have been test screenings, Russell is still tinkering with the final edit and may not be finished before the voting deadline. That is a shame as his three most recent films have been winners with the SAG Awards.

Two years ago "American Hustle" claimed the SAG Ensemble prize two years ago and Lawrence contended for her supporting turn. In 2012, she won the SAG Award for Best Actress for "Silver Linings Playbook," her first film with Russell. Her co-stars Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro also reaped SAG bids as did the cast. Lawrence went on to win the Oscar while Cooper and DeNiro reaped bids. And in 2010, "The Fighter" won SAG Awards for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo who both repeated at the Oscars. Amy Adams contended in supporting at both awards while the cast earned an ensemble nomination at SAG. 

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Below, we detail the key dates of all the precursor awards. 

Note: Winners events are in gold while nomination announcments are italicized

NOVEMBER
Nov. 18 – SAG Awards: Nomination Ballots Mailed

Nov. 24 – Indie Spirit Awards: Nominations Announced 

Nov. 26 – Golden Globes: Nomination Ballots Mailed

Nov. 30 –  Gotham Indendent Film Awards

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DECEMBER
Dec. 1 – National Board of Review: Winners Announced
Dec. 1 – Annie Awards: Nominations Announced 
Dec. 1 – PGA Awards: Film Nominations Open
Dec. 1 – WGA Awards: Film Nominations Open

Dec. 2 – New York Film Critics Circle: Winners Announced
Dec. 2 – DGA Awards: Film Nominations Open

Dec. 7 – Critics Choice Awards: Nomination Ballots Online
Dec. 7 – Golden Globes: Nomination Ballots Due
Dec. 7 – SAG Awards: Nomination Ballots Due

Dec. 9 – SAG Awards: Nominations Announced
Dec. 9 – BAFTA Awards: Nominations Open

Dec. 10 – Golden Globes: Nominations Announced

Dec. 11 – Critics Choice Awards: Nomination Ballots Due

Dec. 14 – Critics Choice Awards: Nominations Announced

Dec. 16: AFI Film Awards: Nominations Announced
Dec. 16 – SAG Awards: Final Ballots Mailed

Dec. 21 – Golden Globes: Final Ballots Mailed

Dec. 30 – Oscars: Nomination Ballots Mailed/Online

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JANUARY
Jan. 2 – PGA Awards: Film Nominations Close

Jan. 4 – PGA Awards: Film Nominations Announced
Jan. 4 – BAFTA Awards: Nominations Close
Jan. 4 – WGA Awards: Film Nominations Close
Jan. 4 – PGA Awards: Voting Opens

Jan. 5 – Art Directors Guild: Nominations Announced 

Jan. 6 – WGA Awards: Film Nominations Announced
Jan. 6 – Golden Globes: Final Ballots Due

Jan. 7 – WGA Awards: Voting Opens 

Jan. 8: AFI Film Awards 
Jan. 8 – BAFTA Awards: Nominations Announced
Jan. 8 – Oscars: Nomination Ballots Due

Jan. 10 – Golden Globes

Jan. 11 – DGA Awards: Film Nominations Ballots Due

Jan. 12 – DGA Awards: Film Nominations Announced
Jan. 12 – Cinema Audio Society: Nominations Announced

Jan. 13 – DGA Awards: Documentary & TV Nominations Announced

Jan. 14 – Oscars: Nominations Announced 

Click here to see ups and downs of Oscar races over entire awards season

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