The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released a branch-by-branch breakdown of its members, just as it does every December before Oscar ballots are mailed to its members, and the numbers help to illustrate the ways in which the Academy is changing.
The main headline is that there are 6,028 active members of the Academy who are eligible to vote for the 86th Oscars when ballots go out on Dec. 27, as opposed to 5,856 at this time last year. The numbers always fluctuate somewhat from year to year because some members die or become “retired” — or inactive — because they fail or elect not to pay their membership dues, and are replaced by new invitees. But this year’s unusually large increase is largely attributable to two recent decisions by the Academy’s Board of Governors: (a) to eliminate caps limiting the number of new members each branch could invite, and (b) to add a 17th branch, for casting directors.
The first change was approved in October 2012 but didn’t impact Academy invitations until 2013 because membership additions are considered by the branches only each May. For the years prior to that dating back to 2004, each branch had operated under a cap that was intended to keep overall membership around or under 6,000. With that cap out of play this year, several branches, particularly smaller ones, invited many more — and more diverse — members than they ever had before, and the total number of new member invitations shot up from 176 in 2012 to 276 in 2013. The documentary branch ended up adding 37 new members, more than any other already-existing branch.
The addition of a casting directors branch was approved by the Academy’s Board of Governors back in July, just days before the HBO premiere of the documentary Casting By, which criticized the Academy for failing to appreciate and recognize casting directors’ contributions to the industry. We now know that there will be 54 active and voting members of the casting directors branch for the 86th Oscars — some of whom previously belonged to the members-at-large branch (including Bonnie Timmermann, who recently told me about making the jump), which undoubtedly accounts, in large part, for the shrinkage of that branch from 255 to to 217 members.
Oddly enough, the only other branch to actually lose active members since last year is the acting branch, which is down two, from 1178 to 1176, but remains by far the largest branch of all. The next highest, based on the 2013 numbers: producers (479), executives (450), sound (418), writers (378), directors and public relations (both 377), short films and feature animation (366), visual effects (323), [production and set] designers (262), music (240), film editors (230), cinematographers (228), documentary (210), makeup artists and hairstylists (135), costume designers (108) and casting directors (54). There are also 165 “associate members” — many of them agents, such as Ari Emanuel and Bryan Lourd — who enjoy the privileges of being Academy members (free screenings, etc.) but are not represented on the Board of Governors and do not get to vote for the Oscars.