Academy Tweaks a Number of Rules Ahead of 87th Oscars

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The changes affect how many actors can be submitted for each movie and how producing teams are defined for best picture consideration.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has tweaked a number of its rules as it readies for the 87th Academy Awards.

For the first time, there is a limit to the number of actors that can be submitted for each film, although it remains a fairly generous one. Under the new rule, studios and production companies may submit a maximum of 10 actors and 10 actresses for each movie, submitting their names on the Academy's official screen credits (OSC) form. Previously, the studios were free to submit a movie's entire cast list.

The change was made in order to reduce the length of the reminder list of eligible releases that is given to each Academy member before the nomination process begins. The actors and actresses for each film will also be listed separately to avoid any confusion when it comes to sexually ambiguous names.

As was previously the case, the Academy members themselves will decide whether a performance should be considered a lead or supporting role. Also, studios and producers are free to decide exactly which 20 actors they submit — they aren't restricted to submitting the top 20 actors on the cast list, but can reach lower down on the list to submit a breakout performer.

The Academy also revisited its rule regarding how many producers can be nominated for best picture. The basic rule remains the same: The Academy will recognize "three or fewer producers who have performed the major portion of the producing functions" and reserves the right to include a fourth producer if it so decides. An established producing team of two producers is considered a single "producer" for the purposes of the rule. However, the rule defining a producing team has been altered slightly. Under the earlier rules, the team had to have been together for at least the previous five years and had to have produced a minimum of five theatrically released features. Under the new rule, the producing team has to have released only two theatrically released features, potentially opening the door to an established team that may not have as many completed features on its résumé.

A change in the music branch's rules for original song reflects the growing presence of musical groups who are contributing songs to movies. The new rule says that songwriters from established musical groups, instead of submitting a song under their individual names, may now submit a song under their group name. So, potentially, future best song nominations could carry the name of a well-known band rather than the names of just two or three of that band's members. If that song wins the Oscar, though, only one statuette will be handed out — in the name of the entire group.

Meanwhile, in the production design category, the rules have been changed to acknowledge the work that goes into creating virtually designed worlds for digitally created movies. The new rule states, "When the environment of a film is substantially composed of animation and digital artistry, a digital artist who is primarily responsible for the achievement may now be considered for the production design award. Previously, only “production designers,” “art directors” and “set decorators” were named as eligible for awards recognition.

A number of the other rule refinements concern various factors surrounding qualifications in the shorts, docs and animated feature categories.

In the animated feature film category, DVD screeners will now be required as part of a film's submission, a move designed to increase participation by making smaller animated movies that have not received wide releases more available to members of the branch.

To qualify for documentary feature consideration, films have been required to screen a minimum of four times daily during their qualifying theatrical releases in both New York and Los Angeles. The rule now stipulates that screenings must begin between noon and 10 p.m., and at least one screening daily must begin between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Previously, an evening screening was not required, and some films had been qualifying by playing morning screenings, whose audiences were necessarily limited. The new rule hopes to make the contending films more visible to the moviegoing public.

In the two short film categories — animated and live action — the existing rule had disqualified any film that first appeared online or on TV before a qualifying theatrical release. That rule is now relaxed a bit — if such a film wins a festival award from one of the festivals on the Academy's short films qualifying festival list, it will now be eligible. But if it fails to win an award, the fact that it first appeared online or TV would continue to be a disqualifying factor.

The Academy also is opening up its own Student Academy Awards for Oscar consideration. At the so-called Student Oscars, the Academy hands out Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. Previously, only the Gold Medallion winners were eligible for consideration in the short film categories. Going forward, winners in all three categories will be eligible.

The Academy also announced that it has launched a new awards submissions platform for entering information required for Academy Awards consideration. It replaces the Academy's previous submissions site for feature films, and now includes the ability to submit online for the animated feature film category. Submitting individuals are encouraged to register now at submissions.oscars.org. The deadline for submitting OSC forms for the 87th Academy Awards is 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

The Academy's board of governors approved the rule changes, proposed by the awards rules committee, at a meeting earlier this week.

The 87th Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 22 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and will be televised live by ABC.

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