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Oscars 2022: This Is How the Academy Awards Work

by Rui Alves 5 months ago in how to

Everything we know about the 'secret' balloting method

Oscars 2022: This Is How the Academy Awards Work
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

The list of nominees for the Oscars results from a very complex election based on the preferred method in which the Academy members are involved.

The Balloting

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has 17 branches, each made up of industry professionals with different specializations — actors, directors, screenwriters, and so on, comprising 9921 members. To be eligible to compete for Best Picture, a feature film must have been first on the list of at least one member of AMPAS. Hence, the more, the merrier, as this increases your chances of being nominated.

Members of the specific branches select nominees for each category. Meaning that, for instance, only directors can choose the nominees for Best Director. Usually, each branch member chooses up to five names for nomination. Those with the most first-place nominations are the final nominees in their respective categories.

However, when it comes to the Best Picture category, it’s a different scope, as everyone gets to cast a vote. Moreover, in this category, a voting member must submit a list of between five and ten nominees; for every other category, rather than the usual short-list of five nominees.

The voting is conducted using both paper and online ballots, beginning in late December. The final balloting process happens online, and a third party audits the vote; in this case: PricewaterhouseCoopers. Only two partners of PwC know the results right to the last moment when the presenter opens the envelope on stage during the Oscars telecast.

‘Magic Number’ Math

The nomination depends on a specific quota of votes, informally called “magic number.” The formula is as follows: the number of votes divided by the number of nominations plus one (+1). Since no one is obliged to vote, let’s say that this year, 6,666 members participated. So 6,666 divided by 11 (10 vacancies + 1) gives 606.

Thus, if a film is listed in the first place more than 606 times, it has already secured one of the ten spots in the Best Picture category. But let’s say that only four contenders get that cut score.

Then we go for a second round. In this case, the Academy disregards the lists where the first placed feature reached the magic number. Let’s say there are 333. A new “magic number” is created: 6,666 minus 333, divided by 11. The result ( always rounded up) is 576, giving a broader margin for a film to score a nominated placement.

There’s even more fine-tuning calculation to be made if, for instance, a film monopolizes the votes and exceeds the magic number by 20%. Still, I will not bother you with the arithmetics; I think that by now, you’ve realized how Oscar’s have a massively intricate selection method.

The main idea here is that we need several rounds of “magic number” changes and redistribution of points until the Academy announces the nominees. Afterward, whoever gets the most votes takes the Oscar.

New rules

In 2020, the Academy announced new rules to ensure equality and inclusion that productions will have to follow to compete for Best Picture starting in 2024. It also allowed features released on drive-ins and streaming platforms to compete for the 2021 Oscars. But with an addendum: they should initially be scheduled to open in theaters. The Oscars ceremony takes place on April 25.

Oscars 2022

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony, or Oscars 2022 (94th Academy Awards), will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and will honor the best actors, technicians, and films of 2021. It is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California, on March 27, 2022.

Ceremony Information

Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in film, the Academy announced, in May 2021, that changes to its eligibility criteria would remain in effect. Still, the eligibility period will normally end on December 31, 2021. The ceremony is scheduled to be held on March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theater. Nominations are scheduled to be announced on February 8, 2022.


Thanks for reading this article. Please consider supporting our community of creators by becoming a Vocal+ Member. Feel free to come back at any time and pick up another thread from my Vocal book of content by clicking here. Small tips and big hearts are highly appreciated. Till next time, cheers. - Rui

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Rui Alves

I write to find the surrogate writer in me.

Rui is a graduate of the University of Porto, teacher, and life-coach.

He is also a partner of Rock n’Heavy and the founder of ZENite.

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