How to Win an Oscar

How to Win an Oscar

We’re all familiar with the Oscars, aka the illustrious Academy Awards. And we all know that it’s a long, hard road to even get nominated. But the process toward receiving that nomination and (hopefully) the subsequent win can often feel like inside baseball. So, what goes on behind the curtain, and what hoops does a performer or project have to jump through in order to secure that crowning achievement? Let’s walk through the overall process, from soup to nuts, on how to win an Oscar.

Before the big event, find all the details in our Oscars 2024 Watch Guide.

Who is the Academy?


Credit: Flickr

First of all, most of us know that something called “the Academy” awards the Oscars. But who is the Academy and what does it — er, they — do?

The Academy is made up of over 10,500 members in 18 “branches.” These members include Hollywood’s top industry professionals. These, of course, comprise of creatives such as producers, directors, actors, writers, costume designers, makeup artists, editors, cinematographers and so on. But the Academy isn’t just made up of artists; there are also branches for executives, casting directors and marketing/PR professionals. The Academy expands this membership each year through a rigorous process. But how does one become a member of the Academy?

Industry professionals can’t apply to be considered for membership, but instead they’re “sponsored” by two other members from their specific branch. They’re then vetted by the Board of Governors, the leadership group within the Academy that guides its overall vision. This group gives the final verdict on whether or not the individual is approved for membership. The other way to join is to be nominated for an Oscar; those who are nominated are immediately considered for membership.

It’s no secret that the Academy has faced multiple controversies over the years, including a lack of female director nominees and not enough racial diversity in the acting categories. As a result, the Academy has made a concerted effort to expand its membership to help address some of these issues.

What is the nomination process?

Oscar Nom.jpegSource: Flickr

The nomination process begins months before the nominations are announced. For the upcoming awards ceremony on March 10, nomination submissions were due in mid-November, and the voting process began in mid-December. A shortlist was then issued in late December, and in mid-January, the members voted on the final nominees.

All Academy members can vote on Best Picture and Best Animated Feature. Otherwise, nominees are chosen by peers of their own field. In other words, actors nominate other actors, writers nominate other writers, etc. Best International Feature Film has a unique process that involves two rounds of voting by all Academy members. In the first round, members vote by secret ballot to narrow it down to 15 total nominees. In the second round, they vote on the 15 films (and members are required to see all of these films), in order to cut it down to five final nominees.

How are the winners selected?

Winner.jpegSource: Flickr

Of course, it’s an honor just to be nominated. But then how are the winners chosen? And when does voting take place?

Voting begins a couple of weeks before the live ceremony, and it ends a few days prior to air. Unlike the nomination process, all members vote on all categories to choose the winner. Votes are conducted online and tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers. For most categories, the process is simple and straightforward: The nominee with the most votes wins. However, it’s more complicated with Best Picture. The Academy uses rank choice voting for this coveted award. The idea is that they achieve the “fairest” outcome, or in other words, the winner is the most widely accepted by the electorate.

Basically, voters rank the eligible films in order of their preference. If one film receives the majority of the top votes, it’s automatically crowned the winner. But that’s unlikely so, if no single nominee gets over 50% of the vote, the movie with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the votes from the members who selected that eliminated film as their first choice, reassign their top vote to their original second place. This process continues until one movie gets over 50% of the share. This process is kept under lock and key, and it’s said that only two partners at PowerwaterhouseCoopers know the results before they’re announced live during the ceremony.

For the most part, this process is rock solid, but PwC is always working toward making it even more ironclad. That’s a relief because we all remember what happened with that infamous wrong-envelope flub when La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture, instead of the actual winner, Moonlight.

Watch the 2024 Oscars on DIRECTV

Be sure to watch the Oscars and other award shows on DIRECTV. Plus, you can watch many Oscar nominated movies On Demand before the show. 

Don’t have DIRECTV yet? No better time than now. 

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