It’s that time of year again: Awards show time. Every year after Christmas, the entertainment industry exploits Southern California’s decent weather for awards shows like the Emmys, Grammys, Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, Golden Globes, and the Oscars. And while most Americans really only care about the red carpet shenanigans, there are some of us who stay tuned for the show. And if we really, really care (and are really, really lame), we actually study the nominees ahead of time and root for our own winners like the awards show is some kind of sporting event.
Unlike the winner of a football game, the winner of an award at an awards show doesn’t get decided live on air. But, like a football team, a candidate for an award has training, campaigning, and sometimes even a fan base.
So how do awards shows work? Who picks the nominees? Who votes for the winners? Why are the same people nominated over and over again? Who is this Academy? And how does one go from being an armchair voter to an actual voter?
Friends, look no further. Here’s a general crash course in awards show voting:
- Submit. A studio/ network/ record company submits their works (recording, movie, TV show) to the entity responsible for giving out awards. The studio/ network/ record company decides which categories to submit which works to. Often, if a work seems like a strong candidate overall (like a Best Picture nominee or Album of the Year nominee) the studio/ network/ record company will submit the work to as many categories as possible. That’s why it seems like all the same movies get Oscar nominations. Alternately, nominees can be selected. This is where all those “for your consideration” campaigns come in. In the Academy, nominees are selected by respective branches of the Academy (sound designers nominate for Best Sound Design, costume designers nominate Best Costume Design, etc).
- Determine Eligibility. A committee within the award- giving organization decides which of the submitted works is actually eligible for a nomination. For example, a lot of eligibility snubs happen in the Best Original Song category at the Oscars. Popular front runners can get disqualified for not actually being in the movie, not actually being original, etc. Nominees also have to abide by the organization’s eligibility timeline to qualify. For example, the Grammys eligibility period is usually from October 1 to September 30 of the following year. Artists often game the Grammys by releasing new music at the start of the eligibility period so it can gain momentum- that’s why Taylor Swift wins so many Grammys.
- Nominate. The entity giving out awards compiles all the nominees and puts them to a vote. Members of the association (like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars or the The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for the Grammys) vote on all the eligible submissions, and the five (or ten or three) with the most votes in each category become the official nominees. Voting rules vary based on organization.
- Vote. Members vote. The rules for who gets to vote on which category also vary by organization. In some cases, only members working in each category can vote in the category. According to the Oscars telelcast, nominees are selected by each branch of the Academy and the entire Academy votes on all categories after nominations have been finalized. Oftentimes all members get to vote in general categories, like Best Picture, Best New Artist, and Record/ Song/ Album of the Year.
- Win! The winners are announced live on air in these outfits called Awards Shows!
Here’s a very crude diagram for ya:
People are always whining about how the Academy is made up of a bunch of old white dudes. So how does one become an Academy member? The rules are different for every organization, but there are usually three ways to become part of a voting organization:
1. You can win.
2. You can be nominated, either once or a bunch of times, depending on the organization.
3. The organization can invite you.
Although we often feel strongly about wins and losses, it’s important to remember that certain awards shows represent the opinions of their members. In short, if you’re not a member, your feelings don’t count. That’s why we have The People’s Choice Awards!