Academy of Motion Pictures Answers Questions on New Oscar Rules

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has posted answers to the many questions that have arisen since the Jan. 22 announcement of new voting rules. The changes were voted unanimously by the Academy board at a meeting the previous evening and have caused some confusion and outcry from members, some of whom felt they were not consulted about the changes. Following are the answers from the Academy’s FAQ:

Why is the Academy excluding older members from voting?

We’re not excluding older members. Everyone will retain membership.
But won’t older members lose their opportunity to vote for the Oscars?

These rules are not about age.  In fact, under the new rules many veteran Academy members will retain voting rights.
I thought you had to work in the last ten years in order to vote.

Working in the last ten years is one way to ensure you have voting privileges. Another way is to have been nominated for an Oscar. And a third way is to show that since you were admitted as a member you’ve worked in motion pictures during three ten-year periods. This means that the longer your career, the more likely you’ll qualify for voting.

So we have to have worked for 30 years to keep the vote?

No. Let’s say you were admitted to the Academy in 1980 and you worked on one film in 1989. That covers you for your first ten years. Then you worked once in the ’90s, which covers you for your second ten-year term, and once again in 2001 for your third ten-year term. That’s only a twelve-year period, but you have worked in the three ten-year terms of your membership, so you’d qualify as an active member with voting status.

Do these ten-year terms have to be consecutive?

No, they do not.

How do you define “active in motion pictures?”

You must be employed in the same kinds of quality films that got you into the Academy in the first place. Your status will be assessed by your peers in your branch — the people who best understand the intricacies of the motion picture industry and your field. The intention is to be inclusive.

What about some of us — such as writers and producers — who work steadily but without screen credit?

Achievement is achievement, regardless of whether or not there is a screen credit. Additionally, members will have an opportunity to appeal their situation.

What if the work I’ve done is not in my branch?

If an editor becomes a director, or a director becomes a producer, or an actor sells a screenplay, that’s all employment in the movie industry, and it still qualifies.

What happens if I don’t qualify?

You move to emeritus status, which means you have all the benefits of membership except voting. You continue to receive screeners and you are still invited to Academy membership screenings and programs, but you no longer pay dues.

And what happens if I become active again after having been moved to emeritus status?

Upon review of your request, you can be reinstated as an active member with voting rights.

If I’m moved to emeritus status, does that mean I’ll no longer get screeners?

You are still eligible to receive screeners. The Academy does not distribute screeners. Production companies and studios do. We will ask our members who run these companies not to make an issue of it.  Rest assured, your status — whether active or emeritus — will not be shared with any other outside entity.

So why make these changes at all?

We want the Oscars to be voted on by people who are currently working in motion pictures, or who have been active for a long time. There are a number of Academy members, however, who had brief careers and left the business. We want to strengthen, uphold, and maintain the credibility of the Oscars with these new criteria.

Voting for the Oscars is a privilege of membership, not a right.

What about all the other changes you announced?

The other changes are aimed at increasing diversity in our membership and governance.  Under our bylaws, the board is directed to periodically review our criteria for voting status and membership. This has happened in the past and this is one of those times.  Diversity has been an ongoing discussion for many years.

What about the changes on the board?

We’ve created three new governor seats, to be nominated by the president, and voted on by the board. These three seats will be filled by women and people of color, and the changes will take place in February.

What is the plan for new recruitment?

We will be actively recruiting new members.  We’re also adding non-governor seats to the six board committees that oversee all Academy activity. And we’re reforming the executive committees by which each branch conducts its business; these are the committees that decide whom to invite for membership. We will maintain high standards and continue to admit only those with substantial achievements.  The concern has been that a lot of highly qualified potential members were falling outside our radar. Many thought they had to wait to be invited, and didn’t know they could apply for membership, through a sponsorship process.

But why lower standards to get new members?

We are not lowering any standards, we’re widening our net. All of these are substantive changes that will open up our governance to a wider range of members and have a significant and positive impact on the Academy. The result will be a membership that is more inclusive of the motion picture community, governance that is more representative of our membership, and a stronger Academy overall.

The details are posted on In a letter, managing director of membership & awards Lorenza Muñoz said, “These new measures are meant to uphold our longstanding mission that Oscars are voted on by active members in the motion picture industry. They are also meant to be fair and inclusive in their definition of an active member of our community.”

The Academy asks those with further questions to email or call (310)247-3001.




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  1. Herb Meisen says:

    In the “In Memoriam” segment of your Oscar program, how could you ignore actress Joan Leslie? She was an icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age and far better known than most of the people you mentioned.

  2. Bill Simmons says:

    Absolute nonsense. Guaranteed set asides (three seats) for women and “people of color?” Are there any GUARANTEED seats for white males?

    Rigging the voting in response to a tantrum thrown by Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee is an overreaction to bad criticism.

    Roll these changes back NOW.

    • Richard Thorne says:

      Now Bill. You know very well that there have ALWAYS been GUARANTEED seats for White males in Hollywood over and above anyone else since its founding. You are really not being truthful. Have a walk down film history lane and get back to us. Why not ask Tony Goldwyn what his forbears at their studio thought of Black people? How about all those films which excised Black people out for racial reasons? Know who Lena Horne was. Hmmm. Further, you do a disservice to the rest of the non-Jada Pinkett actor universe when you frame this discussion as a “tantrum”. Very disrespectful to the topic of diversity. Why not also take a good long look at “Gentlemen’s Agreement” while you’re at it. You may actually learn something positive.

  3. jamiekins says:

    This is such a scam. If they start giving awards to people for color the whole thing means nothing !
    The audience will just fade away. I am tired of just this one minority having the ability to affect such change in any industry. They are only 13.2% of the population. It is just not fair or honest for them to have such power over the entire population. It is wrong ! The Academy will be sorry for letting this happen.

    • Richard Thorne says:

      Oh dear. Wow. Now YOU know how the last 100 years of film history has been for everyone else. Talk about scam? How about a clear affirmative action scheme which has provided White actors with the majority of roles and positions above and below the line since the founding of the Hollywood studios. Go read a book on the history yourself-do a metric illustration on the exact numbers for yourself and then come back. The math and film history speaks for itself. “Power over the entire population”. Interesting when you-if you are capable (I believe in you) try to view this from the other side. Really? Yes, talk about that power. There have been some very powerful influences which have systematically kept the large & small screens majority White in total defiance of demographic changes in the US. As if that should really be a legitimate reason to only see White actors on screen? I’ll leave you to do some homework for yourself on that one. Nice of you to blame the existence of Black actors on screen as the possible reason for the death of the future of cinema. I think you missed a time where you would have been happier-during the days of Jim Crow. Yes, you are right-you ARE tired so please have a seat.

  4. Great– What Affirmative action at the Academy means: Oscars used to be awards of distinction based on performance… but will now become Rainbow Bright awards based on color of skin and not the skill and depth of the character. Sadly any actors of color that are nominated or win will never know if they ACTUALLY won because of the caliber of their performance or if they were the right color choice for the year. Congratulations to any actor/actress/ producer and director of color that won prior to these changes being implemented. You knew you won because of your talent.
    You will never ever be certain of this again!
    Thank you Spike and Jada; you have just turned the Oscars into a T-Ball game –no real winners and no losers– JUST as long as everyone is included and no ones feelings get hurt.

    • Richard Thorne says:

      Colleen. Are you serious? I don’t know, maybe people will be recognized for their real ability the same way the barriers to the non-Hollywood corporate workplace were broken down at The Supreme Court many moons ago.Remember that? Your remarks are disrespectful, condescending and patronizing. What “Affirmative Action” has always meant in Hollywood has always and forever been about White access to all positions first and foremost. Regardless of the qualities or abilities of anyone who was non-White, most were denied equal access to those roles because of racial reasons. You don’t really think that all those roles Black people were seen in in Old Hollywood was because they weren’t good enough as the sole criteria in your phony post-racial (laugh) universe? You talk about “hurt feelings”. What about a century’s worth of non-White talent that never even got a chance to play on a truly “fair and honest” playing field? Why not go and ask some of the Old Hollywood actors about that one?

  5. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    Big mistake. Fix the voting rules. Don’t purge the membership. It’s a vicious circle. A racism for ageism trade. Marginalized members not currently active will lose their vote. All this will do is limit the input of other minorities whose minuscule ranks are even less and don’t get enough opportunity to remain relevant as it is.

  6. Gnrlriles says:

    Studios will challenge their the Academy on spending money to send screeners to the non-voting bloc. Studios will demand a list of names, and the Academy would be dutiful to provide those names and exact figures of who will be affected by these new bylaws.

    Also, since membership will be overseen by respective branches, there is still plenty of opportunity for these “diverse groups” to be overlooked and underrepresented.

    This entire overhaul is but a redherring to the greater issue in the industry. But the public doesn’t know any better, and the Academy’s allure and respectability have been tarnished.

  7. John Miller says:

    It is clearly an African-American initiative, since those are the ones complaining. Asians, Latinos, etc. are likely not a concern. The trick is, what if African-Americans don’t get nominations for “Barbershop 12” or whatever? What will The Academy do then?

  8. Speedmeister says:

    So the only new nominees will be women and blacks. Tough luck if you are of a different racial profile, asian, hispanic etc. It is now all about appeasement it seems. What little status the Academy might have enjoyed is being sacrificed to political correctness. Bad time to be a white male in this industry then.

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