As final voting kicks off on April 15, we wondered who decides the 2021 Oscars. There are 9,362 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who are eligible to vote for both the nominees and winners of the 93rd Academy Awards.
In 2020, the motion picture academy achieved its five-year goal of doubling the number of women among its membership. In all, 819 film professionals were invited to become part of the organization that hands out the Oscars. Compare this intake to those of each of the the previous six years: 842 in 2019; a record 928 in 2018; 774 in 2017; 683 in 2016; 322 in 2015; and 271 in 2014.
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 decides if someone has “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: 1,363 members (up from 1,324)
scripted roles in three films, with at least one of these from the past five years.
Casting Directors Branch: 145 members (up from 128)
screen credit on at least 10 films over a period of no less than eight years.
Cinematographers Branch: 286 members (up from 273)
director of photography on two films, with at least one of these from the past three years.
Costume Designers Branch: 168 members (up from 154)
screen credit on at least four films over a period of no less than five years.
Designers Branch: 384 members (up from 343)
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: 564 members (up from 526)
director of two films, with at least one of these from the past 10 years.
Documentary Branch: 564 members (up from 486)
director and/or producer of two documentary films, with at least one of these from the past five years.
Executive Branch: 662 members (up from 591)
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: 372 members (up from 345)
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: 225 members (up from 206)
supervisory position screen credit on at least five films, three of which were within the last seven years.
Marketing and Public Relations Branch: 598 members (up from 514)
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).
Members-At-Large: 544 members (up from 378)
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: 376 members (up from 345)
screen credit on at least three films, with at least one of these from the past six years.
Producers Branch: 618 members (up from 583)
screen credit on at least two films, with at least one of these from the past 10 years.
Short Films and Feature Animation Branch: 740 members (up from 659)
screen credit in a key creative role on at least two films.
Sound Branch: 541 members (down from 503)
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: 587 members (up from 545)
eight years experience in a key creative role.
Writers Branch: 509 members (up from 485)
screen credit on at least two films.
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