We have written extensively about the different voting methods used to determine the nominations for the 24 competitive categories at the upcoming 91st annual Academy Awards. And we’ve delved into the math behind the “magic numbers” that guarantee bids in those races that use various versions of the preferential ballot, including Best Picture. But who are the 7,902 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and how did they get to have a hand in deciding the winners of the Oscars?
Last summer, the academy invited 928 individuals who work both in front of and behind the camera to join. (Read the full report on the Oscar class of 2018.) This year’s roster was even larger and more diverse than the then-record 774 invited in 2017. And it needed to be if the academy is to have a realistic chance of reaching its goal of doubling the number of women and minority members by 2020 from those numbers as of 2016.
The process by which these new Oscar voters were chosen was dictated by academy bylaw Article III, Section 1:
Membership shall be by invitation of the Board of Governors. Invitations to active membership shall be limited to those persons active in the motion picture arts and sciences, or credited with screen achievements, or who have otherwise achieved distinction in the motion picture arts and sciences and who, in the opinion of the Board, are qualified for membership.
Applicants needed to be sponsored by two members of the branch, approved by the membership committee of that branch and then by the board of governors. Each of the 17 branches sets out its own criteria for admission. All include a proviso that allows for admission of those who have been nominated for an Oscar. And the executive committee of each branch can deem someone to have “achieved unique distinction, earned special merit or made an outstanding contribution.”
Beyond these two catch-alls, there were varying degrees of experience required. All branches require that the credits submitted be for films “of a caliber that reflect the high standards of the academy.”
Below, we break down the membership rules and both the current and last year’s count of voters in each branch. And we detail the various ways in which someone can be admitted as a member-at-large.
Actors Branch: 1,305 members (up from 1,218)
scripted roles in three films, with at least one of these from the past five years.
Casting Directors Branch: 117 members (up from 113)
screen credit on at least 10 films over a period of no less than eight years.
Cinematographers Branch: 264 members (up from 246)
director of photography on two films, with at least one of these from the past three years.
Costume Designers Branch: 153 members (up from 128)
screen credit on at least four films over a period of no less than five years.
Designers Branch: 322 members (up from 308)
screen credit as Production Designer, Art Director or Set Decorator on at least four films over a period of no less than five years; Art Directors working under supervision of Production Designers must have six credits.
Directors Branch: 519 members (up from 512)
director of two films, with at least one of these from the past 10 years.
Documentary Branch: 400 members (up from 320)
director and/or producer of two documentary films, with at least one of these from the past five years.
Executive Branch: 527 members (up from 499)
at least five years experience as a senior executive at an organization producing and/or distributing films, which has been in business at least five years and released three films (or two animated films) in that time. Twenty years of work in the film business guarantees life-time membership.
Film Editors Branch: 323 members (up from 298)
screen credit on four films, at least two of which must be single card credits; shared credits and supervising film editor credits count as 1/2 each.
Makeup & Hairstyling Branch: 189 members (up from 183)
supervisory position screen credit on at least five films, three of which were within the last seven years.
Members-At-Large: 338 members (up from 264)
encompasses all those who work in fields for which the academy has no branch.
(i) general: eight years experience; or sitting executive director of DGA, SAG, PGA, WGA and IATSE; or two years of distinction with unanimous approval of membership committee.
(ii) creative science & technology: eight years experience; or contribution to creative process; or distinction with 3/4 approval of Creative Science and Technology sub-committee.
(iii) production: eight years experience; or five years as head of production, visual effects production, post-production.
(iv) stunt coordinator: eight years experience and eight screen credits.
Music Branch: 331 members (up from 305)
screen credit on at least three films, with at least one of these from the past six years.
Producers Branch: 552 members (up from 524)
screen credit on at least two films, with at least one of these from the past 10 years.
Public Relations Branch: 455 members (up from 416)
distinction in field of publicity, advertising or promotion of film AND at least 10 years experience with at least five of those as head of a department or as chief strategist of a company involved in producing, distributing, marketing or publicizing films (the latter requirement can be waived by a two-third majority of the branch executive committee) OR two years as the most senior marketing executive at a motion picture production/distribution company (again, with two-thirds approval).
Short Films and Feature Animation Branch: 659 members (up from 565)
screen credit in a key creative role on at least two films.
Sound Branch: 506 members (up from 487)
eight years experience with at least five of those as mixer, engineer or supervising sound editor (in the case of the latter, credit on at least five films).
Visual Effects Branch: 497 members (up from 450)
eight years experience in a key creative role.
Writers Branch: 422 members (up from 406)
screen credit on at least two films.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 22.