Academy to Follow PGA Lead in Determining Best Picture Producing Credits

The Academy Awards Statue and Sign - H 2012
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The Academy Awards Statue and Sign - H 2012

In the visual effects category, a maximum of 20 films will now be shortlisted for further consideration.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will follow the Producers Guild of America's lead in determining which producers are eligible for its best picture award, the Academy announced Wednesday as it unveiled rule changes that will govern the upcoming Oscar season.

The Academy stopped short of making major changes in its rules this year  — like changing the number of best picture nominees, which under current rules can range from a minimum of five to a maximum of 10 — but it did roll out several other changes that will affect the visual effects, documentary short subject, and animated short film and live action short film categories.

The new rule regarding producers actually formalizes a practice that was already in place. The PGA has developed a system by which it vets producer's contributions to a given film by reviewing how they fulfilled about 30 different functions in the course of developing, producing and marketing a film. The PGA then gives those producers its "p.g.a." mark, which also makes them eligible for awards consideration for the PGA's own awards. In recent years, the PGA has also forwarded on its list of qualifying producers to the Academy.

The Academy is now explicitly acknowledging its use of the PGA vetting process under its new rule, which says that to qualify as a nominated producer on a movie that is nominated for best picture, a producer must have been determined to be eligible by the PGA or must have appealed the PGA's ruling. In the case of some challenge, final determination of the qualifying producer nominees will be made by the Academy's producers branch executive committee.

In the visual effects category, the number of eligible films that will be initially shortlisted for further consideration will be increased to a maximum of 20 titles. In effect, the new rule creates a new shortlist that will be determined by that branch's executive committee. The branch's exec committee will then winnow down that list to a shortlist of ten from which the nominees will be chosen. The shortlist of ten will be used for the Academy's annual "bake-off" screening before branch members cast their votes for the nominations.

In the documentary short subject category, the number of films that will be shortlisted for nominations voting will be increased from 8 to 10 titles. And instead of a possible three to five nominees, five films will now be nominated in the category.

In the live action and animated short categories, a film that is being qualified through a theatrical run must now have a theater run in Los Angeles County for at least seven consecutive days with at least one screening per day. The film also must appear in the theater listings along with the appropriate dates and screening times. In both categories, the number of nominees will now be set at five. Previously, short films qualifying theatrically had to have a consecutive run of three days with two screenings per day. (Short films may also qualify by winning awards at designated film festivals.)

The decision to have five nominees in each of the short film categories was designed so that there would be parity among those categories — although it could have the unintended consequence of posing a further challenge for Oscar show producers trying to wrangle the program's length, since there now will be a few more nominations to mention in the walk-up to the envelope-opening.

The rule changes, a result of the Academy's annual review of the various rules affecting Oscar voting in its different categories, were approved Tuesday night at a meeting of the Academy's board of governors.