2021 Oscar nominations: How many votes do you need in each of the 24 categories?

Every December, the academy updates its branch totals in anticipation of voting for Oscar nominations. This year’s balloting has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It will kick off on March 5 and runs just six days to March 10. Nominations will be announced on March 15 and the 93rd annual Academy Awards take place on April 25.

This year, a record 9,362 academy members can take part in deciding the Oscars. That is up by a whopping 893 from last year’s total tally of 8,469 members. And it represents a jump of  60% from the 5,856 voters who were eligible to take part in 2014. This uptick in membership is the result of the decision by the academy to do away with the cap that allowed only for replacement of those members who had died or declined to renew. This year’s roster also includes a big uptick in the number of Members at Large, which was prompted by the decision to move agents from non-voting Associate status.

We know the introduction of online voting has increased participation to record levels. Assuming all academy members take part in the process, we can calculate the “Initial Magic Number” of votes needed for a nomination in the various categories.

Seven categories — Animated Feature, International Feature, Makeup & Hairstyling, Visual Effects, and the three Shorts (Animated, Documentary, Live-Action) — require attendance at special screenings and those various methods of nomination are detailed at the bottom of this post.

For all other categories except Best Picture (which can have up to 10 nominees and uses a different method of counting), this “Initial Magic Number” is calculated by dividing the number of ballots cast by six and adding one (i.e., if five contenders each get this number of first-place votes, it is mathematically impossible for a sixth to do so — read a detailed description of this method of counting).

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BEST PICTURE
All 9,362 members can cast ballots for Best Picture
“Initial Magic Number”: 852
(Read a detailed description of the method of counting.)

Five branches vote only in this race (and can take part in the selection process for Animated Feature and Foreign-Language Feature if they so choose):

Casting Directors Branch: 145 members (up from 128)
Executive Branch: 662 members (up from 591)
Marketing and Public Relations Branch: 598 members (up from 514)
Members-At-Large: 544 members (up from 378)
Producers Branch: 618 members (up from 583)

These branches total 2,467 members or 26% of the academy rolls who have no Oscar category to call their own. Last year, 2,194 members were Academy Awards orphans.

SEE 2021 Oscar Best Picture nominations: Voting and ballot counting explained in three easy steps

BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Actors Branch: 1,363 members (up from 1,324)
“Initial Magic Number”: 228

BEST DIRECTOR
Directors Branch: 564 members (up from 526)
“Initial Magic Number”: 95

BEST SOUND EDITING, BEST SOUND MIXING
Sound Branch: 541 members (down from 503)
“Initial Magic Number”: 91

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE 
Documentary Branch: 564 members (up from 486)
“Initial Magic Number”: 95
Each branch member receives DVD screeners of the 200 plus entries and is assigned to watch one-fifth of these but are encouraged to view as many as they can. Members list their top 15 picks on a preferential ballot and those results are compiled and produce a short list of 15 contenders. All members are encouraged to watch the films on this list that they have not yet seen and cast preferential ballots with their top five choices.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY, BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Writers Branch: 509 members (up from 485)
“Initial Magic Number”: 85

SEE 2021 Oscar nominations: Voting and ballot counting explained in three easy steps

BEST SCORE, BEST SONG
Music Branch: 376 members (up from 345)
“Initial Magic Number”: 63
A reminder list of the eligible scores and a DVD with excerpts of the eligible songs is sent to the branch members. Members list their top picks on a preferential ballot and those results are compiled and produce a short list of 15 contenders in each category.

BEST FILM EDITING
Film Editors Branch: 372 members (up from 345)
“Initial Magic Number”: 63

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Designers Branch: 384 members (up from 343)
“Initial Magic Number”: 65

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY 
Cinematographers Branch: 286 members (up from 273)
“Initial Magic Number”: 48

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Costume Designers 168 Branch: members (up from 154)
“Initial Magic Number”: 29

PREDICT Oscar nominees in all 24 categories; change them till March 15

Seven categories have special rules as detailed below:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee and attest to having watched their assigned entries. Members rank their top five choices and a multi-step system of counting winnows the various contenders down to the final five nominees.

BEST ANIMATED SHORTBEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Short Films and Feature Animation Branch: 740  members (up from 659)
Voting on these two awards is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteer to be on the screening committees watched the animated and live-action shorts submitted. Members scored each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch are invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Documentary Branch: 564 members (up from 486)
Voting on this award is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteered to be on the screening committee watched the documentary shorts submitted. Members scored each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch will be invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.

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BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee and watch upwards of a dozen of the 93 submissions for Foreign Language Film over a two-month period. They scored them from 6 to 10 and their top 15 vote-getters will made it to the next round. Those who can attest to seeing all the semi-finalists can vote for the final five nominees. The entire academy membership will get screeners of the five nominated films and can vote for the winner.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Makeup & Hairstyling Branch: 225 members (up from 206)
Nominations are determined in two stages. First, upwards of 15 members of the branch who attend special screenings cast preferential ballots with the top 10 vote-getters moving on to the second stage. Those members from the first stage and any other members who either attend screenings of excerpts from these 10 semi-finalists or attest that they have seen them cast preferential ballots and the top five films are nominated.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual Effects Branch: 587 members (up from 545)
The executive committee of the branch determines the 10 semi-finalists. All members of the branch are invited to a screening of excerpts from these 10 films at which potential nominees may discuss their work. Ballots are counted using a system of re-weighted range voting to determine the five nominees.

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 March 15.

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