Friday, January 16, 2015

Unhappy With The Oscars? Here's How They're Chosen

We didn't want to have to talk about the Academy Awards and diversity.
Honestly, we didn't
In fact, we didn't even want to mention the Oscars and diversity in the same breath.
But some people have pushed the [Oscar] envelope and they've forced our hand here.
So, here goes.
First off, if you want to talk about the Oscars and who gets them and who doesn't, then you've gotta know how they came to be and how and why they're given out.
The Oscars are handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) which was founded in 1927 by Louis B. Mayer (of Metro Goldwyn Meyer) and the captains of the movie industry. The idea was to create an organization that would mediate labor disputes and improve the industry’s image. As part of this plan, AMPAS created the Academy Awards which came to be known as the Oscars.
This is important: The Academy was created by the American motion picture industry and it exists for its benefit. Ditto, the Oscars.
Membership in the Academy is by invitation only. Invitation comes from the Board of Governors. Membership eligibility may be achieved by earning a competitive Oscar nomination, or an existing member may submit a name based on another significant contribution to the field of motion pictures.

New membership proposals are considered annually. The Academy does not publicly disclose its full membership, although news releases have announced the names of those who have recently been invited to join. Membership in the Academy does not expire, even if a member struggles later in his or her career. Thirty-three percent of members are previous winners or nominees of Academy Awards themselves. It's been estimated that the Academy now has about 6,000 voting members.
Academy membership is divided into 17 branches, representing different disciplines in motion pictures. Members may not belong to more than one branch.
Members whose work does not fall within one of the branches may belong to a group known as "Members at Large". Members at Large have all the privileges of branch membership except for representation on the Board.
Members are able to see many new films for free within two weeks of their debut and sometimes even before their release.
In late December ballots and copies of the Reminder List of Eligible Releases are mailed to the voting members. For most categories, members from each of the branches vote to determine the nominees only in their respective categories (i.e. only directors vote for directors, writers for writers, actors for actors, etc.). In all major categories, voters use an instant runoff voting ballot, with potential nominees rewarded in the single transferable vote tally for having strong supporters who rank them first. Up to five nominees may be selected in each category except for Best Picture where up to 10 nominees may be selected.
The winners are then determined by a second round of voting (from among the nominees) in which all members are then allowed to vote in most categories, including Best Picture.
Throughout the process, the ballots are secret ballots and the results are tabulated by an independent accounting firm.
The winners are then announced. Some people are jubilant with the results; some, not so much. That's the nature of any such contest or competition.
This is the Academy Awards.
This is how they came to be.
This is who they exist for.
This is how they are chosen.
This is what they're all about.
So now, suppose one group or another is unhappy with the awards?
Well, apparently the only way to address that would be to change the process.
But why? And how?
The process exists by and for the Academy and the motion picture industry.
The awards are designed to recognize extraordinary achievement in motion picture arts and sciences.
The highest form of such recognition is by one's peers -- one's fellow professionals, one's colleague -- the people who know you, your work and your industry best.
If any group feels disenfranchised, then their only recourse would seem to be through the Academy itself, through membership which is gained by involvement with the motion picture industry and those who work in it.
In the face of any complaints, the Academy should stand its ground. What's at stake here is the integrity of the process itself.
If and when the process is compromised, it seems to us the Awards would have little if any real worth.

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