<i>Variety</i> summarizes all the changes for 2008-09

Last year’s award season was shaken up by the WGA strike and the cancellation of the Golden Globes gala. This year there’s nothing so dramatic but, as always, the award orgs have tweaked their rules and awards, sometimes in major ways.

The Academy guards the value of the Oscar statuette carefully. and so it is rarely inclined to add awards, but it has rule changes for docus, song and (yet again) foreign-language film. BAFTA has a raft of changes, mostly around the edges.

As is often the case, most of the changes in the actual awards are from smaller orgs or from orgs that must adjust to changing technology, such as the Annie Awards and the Visual Effects Society Awards.

Good news and bad news for action movies: There’s a new action category at the Critics Choice Awards, but the Casting Society of America has dropped its action/horror award.

Here’s a rundown of new and changed awards for 2008-09 as well as a summary of rule changes.

NEW & CHANGED AWARDS:

The Critics Choice Awards adds a “best action movie” category.

The Casting Society of America (Artios Awards) has revamped its categories for feature film. This season they are: studio feature – drama; studio feature – comedy; independent feature – drama/comedy; low budget feature – drama/comedy. The last combined category replaces the action/horror category, which has been dropped.

ASIFA-Hollywood (The Annie Awards) has eliminated the individual achievement award for animated production artist. Also, the individual achievement television kudos are now “television or shortform”, so it can include people who have worked on animated TV commercials, short subjects and videogames.

The Visual Effects Society has changed several of its categories and added a few. The new or changed categories are: outstanding animation in an animated feature motion picture; outstanding matte paintings in a live-action feature film; outstanding matte painting in a broadcast program or commercial; outstanding models and miniatures in a live-action feature film; outstanding models and miniatures in a broadcast program or commercial; outstanding special effects in a live-action feature film; outstanding special effects in a broadcast program or commercial; and outstanding visual effects in a student project.

NEW & CHANGED RULES:

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has changed Oscar rules in several categories this year. There were three significant changes in the original-song rules. Most notably, no more than two songs from a single film can be nominated, though any number of songs from one film can be submitted. Second, the clip packages showing how the songs were used in the films will not only be screened but distributed to Music Branch members who can’t attend the screening. Those members will receive DVDs along with the ballots. Third, Music Branch members with one or more songs up for a nomination won’t vote for nominees, though they’ll subsequently be eligible to vote for one of the finalists on the last ballot.

In foreign-language film, the Phase I committee — which is open to any voting member who views a minimum number of the eligible films — will now choose just six of the nine films that go to the Phase II committee. The other three pics will be chosen by qualified members of the 20-member Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee after the Phase I voting has been tallied.

In both documentary categories, the Acad has eliminated the multicity theatrical rollout requirements. Documentary features must get a weeklong qualifying run between Sept. 1, 2007, and Aug 31, 2008 in both Los Angeles County and Manhattan. Documentary short subjects must run for at least a week in either Los Angeles County or Manhattan during those same dates.

The BAFTAs (Orange British Academy Film Awards) have a number of rule changes for 2008-09. For best British film, the British Academy’s Film Committee will get final determination on eligibility; certification by the U.K. Film Council doesn’t guarantee eligibility. To be eligible, films must have “significant British creative content.” In the acting categories, for the first time, the votes of the Acting Chapter will be flagged on the longlist. The winners in these categories will still be voted for by all members.

Also in the BAFTAs, the makeup and hair & costume design branches are to be combined into one chapter for voting purposes. If the combined group has more than 80 members, the makeup and hair & costume design categories will be voted on like other categories, instead of being decided by juries as in the past. Also; entry fees are no longer required for the short film or short animation categories. In short animation, submissions must be on DigiBeta or BetaSP. The Carl Foreman Award will no longer carry a cash prize.

The Producers Guild has expanded the number of titles eligible for the David L. Wolper Producer of the Year Award in Long-Form Television. Now executive producers, co-executive producers, supervising producers, producers and those getting “produced by” credit are all eligible.

Also, the individual achievement television categories have been changed to “television or short form” in order to also recognize individuals who have worked on animated television commercials, short subjects and videogames.

Film Independent’s Spirit Awards will no longer accept foreign documentaries.

IFP’s Gotham Independent Film Awards now include a $15,000 cash prize for the winner of the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You award.

The Visual Effects Society will have online submissions for the first time and will have simultaneous nomination events in London and Los Angeles.

NAACP (Image Awards) now has separate categories for indies and foreign films.

The Hollywood Post Alliance, whose kudos kick off award season in Hollywood, had two changes for 2008: Entrants in the editing – features and audio post – features categories were not required to submit any viewing materials. The HPA is unsure if these rules will carry forward to 2009.

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