Ever felt like your favorite movie got snubbed at the Oscars? Or that the nomination lists were on point? Whatever you may feel about the Academy or it’s selections, one thing is for sure- most of us have no idea how the nomination or winning process is conducted.

So to give us a better idea of how the process goes, let’s dive deep into how films are deemed eligible, who gets to vote, and how the voting process is conducted. ?

1. Eligibility

For a movie to be eligible for an Oscar, it must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The movie itself must be at least 40 minutes long. ⏱
  • It must premiere in theatres first. If released on TV or on a streaming service first, it is immediately disqualified. However, in the wake of the pandemic, online releases are allowed, only if a theatrical release was planned beforehand.
  • The film must screen for 7 straight days and must also run for paid admission tickets in theatres across Los Angeles County.
  • They must also submit a file for nomination by sending in an OSC (Official screen credits) form by early December.

By satisfying these requirements, a movie is eligible for application to the Oscars. Once the eligible list of movies is compiled, it’s up to the members of the Academy to vote on who gets to make it on the nominees’ list. ?

2. Who gets to vote?

The only individuals who are allowed to vote for the Oscars are its members, which make up ‘The Academy’.

The members of The Academy are divided into different branches, set according to the nomination categories. Directors generally get to vote for the Best Director category, actors for the Best Actor Category, and so on.  The members of the Academy aren’t outsiders, but renowned individuals within the film industry. ?

With over 8000 members, the qualifiers for becoming one are very simple.

  • Depending on the category, factors like the qualifying number of films, scripts, and years worked may be taken into consideration.
  • An additional bonus: If a person was nominated for an Oscar, they automatically make the cut to be a part of the Academy!
  • However, once an individual is assigned their category, they cannot switch to a different one. ?‍♀️

3. The Voting Process

With the members and movies ready, the official voting process officially begins. The process for selection of nominees isn’t as simple as voting for one movie, but rather is based on a preferential ranking method. ?

Each member will receive a ballot where they will enter their choices for that particular category of nominations, from their first choice to their last. ? Only those belonging to a particular category can put forth their selections for that category. For example, Quentin Tarantino can only submit his list of nominees for the Director category and no other.

However, for the best motion picture, everyone gets to send in their ranked list of movies for polling, though it is strictly limited to just 5 choices. The other categories allow for a list of 5-10 choices.

The actual counting of these preferential ranks is done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers or PwC for short, an accounting firm that has done the counting of votes for the Oscars for over 80 years. Each nomination is chosen on the basis of whether the number of votes for that movie passes a certain predetermined Magic Number. ? 

The Magic Number itself is based on a formula: Total Ballots Received / (Total Possible Nominations + 1)

If a selection receives a certain number of first-place votes that surpass the magic number set, it qualifies as a nomination. So if the magic number is 150 and Joker received 160 votes, it qualifies and becomes an official nomination! ✅

After the first nomination is decided, PWC sorts and removes the rest of the first-place votes for other selections and proceeds for the selections in the second rank and is recounted until one selection passes the magic number again.

And this process goes on until all 5 nominations for a category are decided!

After the nominations are announced, the official winners are left to be decided. For this, a simpler approach is considered with one vote taken for who the member thinks should win the Oscar. Here, inter-category voting is allowed, although it is discouraged to vote for a category one does not know much about. The votes are counted by hand and the official counting process for the final winners takes the accounting firm just 3 days, giving us the final winners! ?

Many have discussed taking a different approach to voting to replace the preferential ranking system but as of now, that’s how the Oscar nominations and winners are decided. ?

Written and Researched by Nikita Jacob

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