Who Picks The Oscar Nominees? Here's Everything You Need To Know About How The Academy Works

Oscar nominations will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 14, and while stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Rooney Mara are biting their nails, anxious to find out whether they could be up for a coveted award, the rest of us are sitting here wondering, who even picks the Oscar nominees, anyway? Well, it shouldn't be too shocking to find out that the people responsible for choosing Academy Awards are called, uh, the Academy. Academy members vote to determine Oscar nominees, and then vote again to determine the winners, but the group is far from a democracy. No, every Academy branch (of which there are many) votes for specific categories, and the voting rules for some categories, like Best Foreign Language Film and Best Animated Feature, are different from others. And every last nominee and winner is determined by the Academy.

But just who makes up the Academy? The Academy consists of over 6,000 members — 2014's official count listed 6,124 members, and, in June, the group announced that it had invited 322 people to join the fold. New members of the Academy include Benedict Cumberbatch, Emma Stone, Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. Last year's Oscar winners, John Legend, Common, Eddie Redmayne and J.K. Simmons were also invited to join.

As The Hollywood Reporter reported, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in June that she hoped that by opening up the Academy to more members, it would help usher in an increase in Academy diversity to be reflected in the nominees (in 2014, it was reported that 94% of Academy members were white). This would be a clearly needed change, especially after last year's ceremony, which spurred the hashtag "#OscarsSoWhite."

According to THR, winning an Oscar, or even just getting a nomination, doesn't actually guarantee entrance to the Academy. Instead, new members are determined by branch, and each branch has their own process that determines how new members are chosen. After the branches determine who they want to invite to the Academy, the Academy's Board of Governors approves the list before official invitations are sent out.

New members join one of the 17 branches of the Academy that vote for the Oscars: Actors, Casting Directors, Cinematographers, Costume Designers, Designers, Directors, Documentary, Executives, Film Editors, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists, Music, Producers, Public Relations, Short Films and Feature Animation, Sound, Visual Effects, and Writers. In the first round of the voting process (which determines nominees), Academy members are only allowed to vote in their own Branch's category and Best Picture. In other words, Academy members are restricted in first round voting to only vote in the categories they are experts in — Film Editors vote for Film Editing and so on (though it's unclear what categories Casting Directors or Public Relations branch members vote on).

Because of the structure of the Academy and nomination voting, that means that, for some categories, potential nominees need a surprisingly low number of votes to earn a nomination. In 2015, for example, actors required 192 votes to secure a Best Actor nomination, according to The Wrap. Other categories with significantly smaller branches, like Best Production Design, only needed around 40 votes.

Once votes are tallied and nominations announced, the second round of voting begins. This second, and final, round determines the winners of the Academy Awards, and is open to all branches. No longer must Academy members stick in their own branch, they are now free to vote in all Oscar categories. Of course, not all Academy members choose to vote in all categories. In fact, some forget to vote all together.

Now, when your favorite actor is snubbed or that movie that you just hated is praised come nomination day, you know who to blame.

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