Who’s the Academy behind the Oscars, Hollywood’s biggest night?

A replica of an Oscars statue.
An Academy Award souvenir replica. (Melanie Kalogirou/Toronto Observer) 

When Oscar recipients step on stage to accept their award, they almost always say the famous phrase “I would like to thank the Academy.” But who exactly is the Academy? Who chooses Oscars winners, and how?

The Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars, are a yearly televised broadcast where awards are presented for artistic and technical merit for the film industry.

March 10 marked the 96th Academy Awards, which were held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.

This year, the Academy Awards had the “very best shot in a generation of appealing to the most mass audience possible, thanks to the twin pop-culture successes of Oppenheimer and Barbie,” Barry Hertz, film editor and chief film critic for The Globe and Mail, said in an interview with The Toronto Observer.

In light of awards season, here is a closer look at the Academy, their process of selecting winners and what recent changes have been made.

Who is the Academy?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of over 10,500 members with 18 branches including actors, directors, cinematographers, casting directors, costume designers and more.

In order to become members, people must go through a selection process based on their professional experience. They’re often previous Oscar nominees themselves.

According to the Academy Press Office, sponsored candidates and nominees are reviewed by branch committees and recommendations for membership are considered by the Academy’s board of governors.

Janet Yang, an award-winning Hollywood producer, is the current president of the Academy. Bill Kramer is the CEO of the Academy, conducting day-to-day business. They are accompanied by eight vice-presidents, each with extensive film and TV producing credits.

The Academy’s branches are each represented by three governors, with the exception of the recently added production and technology branch, which is represented by one governor.

How are Academy Award nominees and winners selected?

Oscar nominees and winners are selected through an online voting process among members of the Academy.

“Every member of the Academy is encouraged to see all of the films nominated and private screeners are sent to Academy members. If you’re in L.A. this time of year, you’ll see advertising for nominated films everywhere,” said Sarah Bay-Cheng, dean of York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design.

“Studios have big marketing campaigns for their films and there’s a lot of swag floating around.”

Most categories are nominated by members of the corresponding branch — for example, film editors nominate film editors. That being said, all members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.

According to Oscars.org, the official site of the Academy, nomination votes are conducted using online ballots, then tabulated by PwC, an accounting firm that has overseen balloting since 1935.

The final balloting process also takes place online and at this point, all voting members of the Academy are able to vote on all categories.

After final ballots are tabulated, only two partners of the PwC know the results until envelopes are opened live on stage during the Oscars, revealing the winners to the public.

What recent changes have been made to the Academy’s membership and selection process?

In 2020, the public raised concerns over who was being invited to join the Academy and an overall lack of gender and racial representation. Internet personality April Reign led an online campaign called #OscarsSoWhite.

“Diversity has been one of the main issues plaguing the Academy for years, and to be fair, they have stepped up to face the problem by widening their membership,” said Hertz.

Bay-Cheng made a similar point.

“A lack of representation within the Academy was reflected in the representation of films and artists nominated and awarded,” she said.

“In response, a relatively large number of new members were invited to the voting body.”

In 2024, the Academy implemented a new rule that all films must complete a confidential Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry form that meets two out of four standards in order to be eligible for nomination.

This year, seven out of 20 acting nominees were from historically underrepresented groups and are all first time nominees, including America Ferrera, Lily Gladstone, Danielle Brooks, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Colman Domingo, Sterling K. Brown and Jeffrey Wright.

One study released in 2023 found eight per cent of nominees were from underrepresented racial or ethic groups between 2008 and 2015, while that proportion grew to 17 per cent between 2016 and 2023. The number of female nominees also jumped by six percentage points during the same period, reaching 27 per cent.

Nine years ago, campaign finance lawyer April Reign created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite after “the Academy awarded all 20 acting nominations to white actors for the first of two consecutive years.”

“There are lots of notable moments in Oscar history, some inspiring and some more notorious. But, I think the quieter moments are the most interesting,” said Bay-Cheng.

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Posted: Mar 11 2024 10:34 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Entertainment News Performing arts