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#OscarsSoWhite: What Are the Academy’s Membership Requirements, Anyway?

As AMPAS promises change, here are the current branch-by-branch criteria for Oscars voters


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a major push to diversify its membership ranks, beginning with the film professionals who will be invited to join later this year. But when AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs promises “we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment,” what will her organization be examining?

Joining the Academy is a multi-step process. A person must apply, and his or her application must be signed by two current members of the branch that person wishes to join. This year’s deadline for application is Mar. 24.

In the Spring, all applications are reviewed by special committees in each branch. Approved applicants are then forwarded to the Academy’s Board of Governors, which votes to approve or deny each individual application.

At that point, typically in June, the Academy invites all the approved applicants to join, and announces the list of invitees.

But in addition to the application and approval process, each branch also has specific requirements for membership. Typically, these involve some combination of years in the movie business and number of film credits, but they vary widely from branch to branch.

Casting directors and stunt coordinators, for instance, need 10 film credits, while directors, writers and producers only need two.

In every case, film credits only count if they are for films “that reflect the high standards of the Academy.”

Note: Getting nominated for an Oscar — or even better, winning one — can be enough to sidestep the usual requirements and warrant an immediate invitation. So can achieving “unique distinction,” earning “special merit” or making “an outstanding contribution” to your field, whatever those phrases mean.

Here are the current requirements for membership in each branch:

Actors Branch: Three film credits, at least one of which is from the last five years.

Casting Directors Branch: A minimum of eight years casting theatrical films, and 10 film credits.

Cinematographers Branch: Two film credits as Director of Photography, at least one within the last three years.

Costume Designers Branch: Six screen credits as Costume Designer.

Designers Branch: Five years experience and four screen credits as production designer, art director or set decorator.

Directors Branch: Two directorial credits, at least one in the past 10 years.

Documentary Branch: Two director or producer credits on a theatrical documentary, at least one within the past five years.

Executives Branch: Five years experience as the CEO, COO or head of production, animation or domestic or international distribution at a company that has been in business for five years and released at least three live-action or two animated features. (Executives who don’t remain in the motion picture industry for at least 20 years are automatically shifted to associate, non-voting status.)

Film Editors Branch: Four film credits, at least two of which are on a single card (i.e., not shared credits).

Makeup Artists & Hairstylists Branch: Seven years experience on features, and a supervisory position on at least five theatrical films.

Music Branch: Three on-screen credits, at least one from the past six years.

Producers Branch: Two producer screen credits on films in which the candidate performed the majority of functions of a producer. Shared “produced by” credits count as a fraction toward the total of two.

Public Relations Branch: Ten years employment in publicity, advertising or promotion, five of those as a department head or chief strategist of a company involved in producing, distributing, marketing or publicizing theatrical motion pictures.

Short Films & Feature Animation Branch: Three theatrical film credits.

Sound Branch: Eight years experience, five of those as mixer, engineer or supervising sound editor, plus five film credits.

Visual Effects Branch: Eight years in a “key creative position” in visual effects.

Writers Branch: Two feature film credits.

Members at Large: Eight years in motion picture production “in a key creative position for which the Academy has no branch.” The requirement is waived for sitting executive directors of the DGA, SAG, PGA, WGA and IATSE.

Members at Large (Creative Science and Technology): Eight years “in a key position supporting the theatrical motion picture experience,” or the creation of “leading creative tools and/or systems for the crafts involved in the creation of the motion picture experience.”

Members at Large (Production): Eight years in production “in a key creative position for which the Academy has no branch,” or five consecutive years as head of physical production, visual effects production or post-production.

Members at Large (Stunt Coordinators): Ten years experience as a motion-picture stunt coordinator, and 10 films as the sole-credited stunt coordinator.

Associate Members: Eight years as the owner or senior executive of an organization “whose primary activities have contributed to the art or science of motion pictures,” or eight years of distinction “in the theatrical motion picture industry,” but not in a field that would qualify a person for membership in an AMPAS branch or as a Member-at-Large.

Associate Members (Artists’ Representatives): Eight years experience as an agent.