Awards Season – It’s not all Glitter and Glam
With the Oscar and BAFTA nominations out, the awards season is in full swing. Between the Feinberg Forecast , critic scores , and literally anyone with a Twitter account, there’s an awful lot of hot takes on who’s going to take home the statuettes this year. But only one opinion really matters. Or rather, the opinion of one a few thousand individuals within the film industry. Let’s take a look at what the reality of the voting process looks like for film academy members.
As we’ve posted about before , a nomination (and subsequent win) is a huge box office boost. In order to get that, there are three months of grueling campaigns that nearly every film – yes, every film – and every voting member of a film academy go through. Both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) and the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) go through the same cycle.
Beginning in October, studios host exclusive screenings of their best work. Some screenings haven’t even had a theatrical release at the time. Studios will invite academy members to watch the films, and have a talk back with the director, writer, or the stars of the film. PR teams will begin heavy ad campaigns in trade publications. These publications include: Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, etc. These will often take the form of banners in emails, full page placements in print editions, and pop-ups on the media outlet website – asking “for your consideration” in the upcoming vote.
Sounds nice, right? They get to go into screenings after work, sit back, relax, and just watch movies.
Except, voting members of film academies don’t just sit back and watch a couple films and then go home for the evening.
Academy members receive anywhere between 20 to 50 invitations to such screenings every day at this stage. Some screenings will show multiple films in a single night. Members are also sent “screeners” – exclusive, DVD copies of the film. These copies are meant to be destroyed after viewing at home – as an alternative to a studio hosted screening. Film academy members can get one hundred different screeners sent to them. There are hundreds of movies to screen at this round. If the average film is 90-120 minutes long, that’s weeks spent watching films with a critical eye.
In short, it’s massive commitment to carefully viewing and judging the works of their peers. Academy members don’t just watch a movie and then move on – they have to view it in several different ways: as a complete work, it’s technical aspects, actor performances, the design (sound, production, costumes, hair/makeup etc), the strength of the script, among countless others. This is equally as much of an honour and a privilege as it is a duty that’s taken extremely seriously by Academy members.
At the end of the first round, everyone submits their vote in their respective category (actors will nominate actors, cinematographers will nominate cinematographers, editors will nominate editors, etc) in December to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an auditing company, to count. The nominations are out by mid January. That vote narrows the race from hundreds all the way down to a shortlist of up to ten and six films for the Oscar Best Picture and BAFTA Best Film races respectively (not to mention best animated, best documentary, or the BATFA’s Best English Film awards). From here, studio PR teams kick their campaigns into high gear. With their own features reduced to one or two films, studios will heavily concentrate their efforts in order to collect the statuette at the ceremony and a box office surge the following weekend.
Between the nomination announcement and the actual ceremony, members cast their second ballot to choose the winners from the finalists. On this ballot, members across all sections vote in all categories. Often, voting members will have to go back and watch the shortlisted films again just to keep them fresh in their mind. Those ballots are collected and tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Only two members of the firm know the winners until the envelopes are opened at the ceremony. Most members do not know how their peers vote. All the ballots are secret and are treated as highly confidential material.
Now that we’ve broken down the selection and nomination process, what does it take to participate in such a vote? How does one become a member of a film academy?
“It’s one of the most exclusive clubs in the world… They want the very best of the best.”
Mark Summers is a member of the British Film Academy . Firstly, membership in the institution is an honour and a privilege in and of itself. In Mark’s opinion, hard work, connections, and a full CV are just the beginning. People spend years working in the industry before they get an invitation to join.
Currently, BAFTA membership is open to applicants who currently work professionally in Film, Games, or Television. Applicants for the Academy must be nominated by current members. Although, nominees for an Academy Award are automatically considered for membership. Mark has a word of advice for anyone considering applying for membership in a film academy, “Make sure you have the time for that commitment.” And as we know now, make sure you’ve got that time around the holidays to catch up on all the films that season to effectively fulfill your duty as a member of that prestigious organisation.
Watch the BAFTAs 18 February, on BBCOne, at 7pm GMT and the Oscars 4 March, on ABC at 5pm PST
Written by Hannah Paquette @ Mark Summers Casting.
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