Fri. Aug 7th, 2020

2017 Oscars: How Many Votes Does it Take to Get a Nomination?


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After the addition of a massive 683 new members to the Academy this summer (an additional 10% of the existing total) that pushed the number of members to nearly 7000 (6687, to be exact), the amount of votes needed to get a nomination in any category, be it Best Picture, Best Actress or Best Animated Short, just got a little bit bigger. That influx, part of the Academy’s promise to diversify its membership, could have a real impact on the nominations we’ll see on January 24th.

Voting on this year’s Oscar nominations starts on January 5th and ends on January 13th (with the Golden Globe Awards landing right in the middle), a full week later than last year and something that could benefit a number of late December releases.

Here is the breakdown of the number of members in each field and how many votes it takes to earn a nomination there. One caveat – that ‘magic’ number is only in the instance that every eligible member votes. In reality, the number is probably far less. But, it’s still probably higher than the percentage of Americans who vote in an average political election.

Best Picture
The entire Academy membership, all 6,687, is eligible to vote in this category. In the first round of voting, if they all vote, 608 votes will guarantee you a nomination. This year, 336 films are eligible for the Best Picture Oscar.

That magic number comes from dividing the number of votes by the number of potential nomination slots, which is 10, plus one, and then rounding up to the next whole number. So, 6687 divided by 11 equals 607.9, which is then rounded up to 608.

Best Picture, however, is unlike any other category at the Oscars. It has rules that end up with anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees. Meaning, the accountants redistribute ballots whose first choice received significantly more than 608 votes and ones whose first choice received fewer than 67 votes. So far, since the expansion of the category and using this type of balloting (2011), it has only resulted in years with 8 or 9 Best Picture nominees.

After that redistribution, any film with more than five percent of the vote — which is to say, any film with at least 335 votes — becomes a nominee. A film could be on a thousand ballots but if it’s in the 4th or 5th spot it’s probably not getting nominated. With the ballot redistribution, a film needs to be 1, 2 or 3 to get in.

Best Director
There are 473 voters in the Directors Branch, and five slots for nominees. That puts the magic number at 79 votes.

Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress
The Academy’s largest branch, with 1,158 members, means it takes 194 votes to get you a nomination.

Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay
The Writers Branch has 406 members, so 68 votes will get you a writing nomination.

Best Film Editing
With 274 members of the Film Editors branch, you only need 46 votes.

Best Cinematography
An even smaller branch, with 240 members. That means 41 votes for a nomination there.

Best Production Design
The branch has 295 members, so 50 votes for a nomination there.

Best Costume Design
At 117 members, the Costume Designers branch is by far the smallest branch that votes for its own award. Therefore, a costume design nomination takes fewer votes than any other category, just 20.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Also a small branch, with only 157 members, but also the only category with only three open slots for a nomination. Voting members must attend a special presentation of clips, or members who have seen all seven shortlisted films must sign an affidavit to that effect. It takes 40 votes for a nomination here.

Best Original Score, Best Original Song
The Music Branch consists of 279 members, which puts the magic number for a nomination at 47. After years of Disney films grabbing up to three spots of five, the group changed its rules to only allow two nominations per film in the Original Song category. This year, three films submitted more than two songs —  La La Land, Believe and What Happened Last Night. If one of those films gets all three songs to hit the magic number, the third song to do so will be disqualified. Realistically, only La La Land is in danger of this unless we have another “Alone, Yet Not Alone” on our hands this year. Barring any last-minute disqualifications, there are 145 films eligible for Original Score and for 91 Original Song.

Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing
With 456 members in the Sound Branch, the nomination total is 77 votes.

Best Visual Effects
The Visual Effects branch, with its 383 members, calculate their nominations differently than anyone else. Instead of a preferential system, they use “reweighted range voting,” which uses a numerical score. The nominations will come from the 10-film shortlist.

Best Documentary Feature
Starting from the 15-film shortlist, the 277 members pick their five favorites. If they all cast ballots, it’ll take 47 votes to be nominated.

Best Animated Feature
The Feature Animation branch (which also includes Animated Short Films) has 479 members, which would normally mean that 80 votes would guarantee a nomination. But this is one of the few branches where Oscar nomination voting is only open to members of the branch (and volunteers from other branches) who have seen at least 18 of the 27 eligible films . They score all the films, rather than rank them, and the five with the highest scores are nominated.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Amazingly, the number here is just seven and it’s a more complicated and in-depth procedure than any other category. Several hundred volunteer members from all branches of the Academy watch and score all submitted eligible films; their top six choices make the shortlist, with an additional three choices from an executive committee. Then, three hand-picked phase-two committees  (20 voters in Los Angeles, 10 in New York and 10 in London), view the nine-film shortlist and vote for the finalists.

Those phase-two committees then vote by secret ballot for their five favorites. Since there are only 40 members voting in this round, the magic number is seven.

Best Animated Short, Best Live-Action Short
The Short Films branch (which also includes Feature Animation Branch) has 479 members. All of them are eligible to score the qualifying films to determine two 10-film shortlists (here and here), and also eligible to attend screenings of the shortlisted films in each category. Members who have seen all of the shortlisted films can cast nominating ballots – in the unlikely event that the entire branch participates, that would mean a magic number of 80 votes. (But in reality, it’s likely far lower.)

Best Documentary Short
The 277 members of the documentary branch are eligible to vote from the 10-film shortlist . If everyone in the branch watches the eligible shorts and votes the number for a nomination is 47, just like Documentary Feature.

So, there you have it. The magic numbers that it takes to get an Oscar nomination. Stay tuned to AwardsWatch as we predict who will get these Oscar nominations on January 24th right here.

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