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Academy Awards Expands Visual Effects and Doc Shortlists, But Doesn’t Add Categories

AMPAS Board of Governors also opts not to change the number of Best Picture nominees


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced a few changes in rules for the 2015 Academy Awards on Wednesday, beefing up the shortlists for the visual effects and documentary short categories.

But the big news was what they didn’t do.

There was no change in the number of Best Picture nominees, despite speculation that the board was ready to consider going back to a flat five nominees after four years of a variable system that can produce anywhere from five to 10 contenders. (In practice, it produced eight nominees once and nine three times.)

And AMPAS didn’t add new Oscar categories for stunt coordinators or casting directors, despite lobbying by and on behalf of both groups.

Instead, the board stuck with 24 categories and between five and 10 Best Picture nominees, depending on how the votes stack up. And barring an unusual decision after new board members are elected next month, it won’t revisit those areas for another 12 months.

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The only rule affecting the Best Picture category clarified that for a film’s producer to have been deemed eligible for an Oscar, he or she must have been declared eligible by the Producers Guild of America or must have appealed the PGA’s “refusal of such eligibility.”

If a producer has been deemed ineligible by the PGA but has appealed, he or she can also appeal to the Academy, with a final decision made by the Producers Branch Executive Committee. Last year, producers declared ineligible for awards by both the PGA and the Academy included John Sloss and Jonathan Sehring, two of the producers of “Boyhood.”

In the Best Visual Effects category, up to 20 films will now be shortlisted for consideration, an increase over the 15-film list in past years. Those contenders will still be narrowed down to 10 before the final five nominees are chosen, which takes place after a screening of excerpts from the 10 for branch voters.

The shortlist has also been expanded in the Best Documentary Short Subject category, from eight to 10 films. While in the past the category could include three, four or five nominees, it will now be set at five.

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And in the other short-film categories, Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film categories, a film qualifying via theatrical release must now have a seven-day run in Los Angeles County, with at least one screening per day. The film must also must appear in the theater listings during that run, which has been expanded from a four-day qualifying run.

The rule will make it more expensive for filmmakers to qualify their shorts with a theatrical release, because the usual route for shorts requires paying to “four-wall” a theater for the length of the run. Shorts can also qualify for Oscar consideration by winning one of more than 150 top awards at 85 qualifying film festivals, or by winning a Student Academy Award.

The governors also approved new campaign rules for the upcoming Oscar season. With no significant problems arising during the last Oscar campaign, those regulations underwent only minor tweaking.

Rules changes are recommended annually by committees within each Academy branch, which meet in the months following the Oscar show. Those recommendations are then passed along to an AMPAS Awards Rules Committee, which reviews the changes and makes its own recommendations to the Board of Governors.

At the Tuesday night meeting, the board also voted on lists of potential new members chosen by each branch. The list of approved candidates who will be invited to join the Academy will be announced later in the week.

The 88th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016 in the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles. Nominations voting will begin on Dec. 30, with nominees announced on Jan. 14.