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Every year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences votes on which films get nominated for Academy Awards. And every year viewers wonder how the winners are chosen. The Academy is not the easiest to understand, so here’s what you need to know: 

Candidates are sponsored by current members

Those who work in the film industry are eligible to become a member of the Academy, but it’s not based on applications. Candidates are sponsored by two members of their branch. There are 17 different branches to the Academy, most of them representing different categories at the Oscars. Two special categories, members-at-large and associates, open the Academy up to people who work in the film industry but don’t fit into any of the other branches. 

There are specific requirements for each branch

The Academy’s Board of Governors determines who receives an invitation to be in the voting body of the Academy, and candidates have to meet certain requirements for the branch in which they are being sponsored. For example, to be in the actor’s branch, the candidate must have three film credits to their name, one of which has to be within five years of the sponsorship. If a person is nominated for an Academy Award, they are automatically a member of the Academy and sponsorship is not required.  

The class of 2017 welcomed 774 new members

In 2017, the Academy invited 774 new members, bringing the total membership up to about 8,500 people. Invitations are sent to the candidates, and they can accept or decline the right to be in the Academy. Some members added this year include Chris Pratt, Gal Gadot, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and America’s favorite actress, Betty White. Candidates can also be members of more than one branch. 

Nominees are determined by branch

Members of each branch vote for the shortlist and the final nominees in each category. Academy members are given screeners to view movies before they come out. Movies have to be released in a certain number of theaters or film festivals before the end of the year to be considered for Academy Awards. 

Everyone is eligible for final voting

Even though people have special categories they vote in, that does not keep them from having a say in the final voting. Every member can vote for the final counts and have say in who wins awards like Best Picture. 

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