The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the rules for the 96th Oscars, and in this article, we focus on the rules that apply to short films.
There is no change in the categories when it comes to short films. Just like the previous year, there are three different categories for short films for the 96th Academy Awards.
- Animated Short Film
- Documentary Short Film &
- Live Action Short Film
The rules for each category are detailed, including the qualifying criteria, length limits, and more. Filmmakers interested in submitting short films for consideration should pay attention to these rules to ensure their work meets the requirements. If you are interested in the other categories, refer to the complete rules listed here.
Rules for Academy Awards Animated Short Film Category
New Rules and Criteria for Animated Short Film Award at the Oscars for 96th Awards Year
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released a new set of rules and definitions for the Animated Short Film category for the 96th Awards Year. A short film is defined as an original motion picture that lasts for 40 minutes or less, including all credits. Previews, advertising films, sequences from feature-length films like credit sequences, unaired episodes of TV series, or unsold TV series pilots are excluded.
An animated film, defined by The Academy, is a motion picture that uses a frame-by-frame technique to create movement and characters’ performances, usually divided into narrative or abstract general fields of animation. The techniques for animating films include but are not limited to hand-drawn animation, computer animation, stop-motion, clay animation, pixilation, cutout animation, pinscreen, camera multiple pass imagery, kaleidoscopic effects created frame-by-frame, and drawing on the film frame itself. However, motion capture and real-time puppetry are not animation techniques by themselves.
For a film to qualify in the Animated Short Film category, the animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time. In addition, a narrative animated film must feature many of the major characters animated. If a picture is created in a cinematic style that could be confused with live action, the filmmaker(s) must also submit information supporting how and why the picture is substantially a work of animation instead of live action. If the animated documentary film is submitted, it may be in either the Animated Short Film or Documentary Short Film category, but not both.
A short movie must fulfill one of the following qualifying criteria to be eligible for the Oscars consideration for the 96th Awards Year. The eligibility period starts October 1, 2022, and ends on September 30, 2023. The movie must have been publicly exhibited for paid admission in a commercial theater in one of the six qualifying US metro areas, including Los Angeles County; City of New York, Bay Area, Chicago, Miami, and Atlanta, for a run of at least seven consecutive days with at least one screening a day, before public exhibition or distribution by any nontheatrical means.
Alternatively, a short film can seek consideration if it has won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival. Proof of the award must be submitted with the entry specified in the Oscar Qualifying Short Film Festival List. A film can also participate if it has won a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal award in the Academy’s 2023 Student Academy Awards competition in the Animation or Alternative/Experimental categories.
All entries must be submitted in a standard theatrical exhibition aspect ratio and format. If a short movie advances to the voting round, additional material, including a film print or DCP of the film, will be required after the shortlist is announced.
For voting purposes, all active and life members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch will be invited to view the eligible submissions in the Animated Short Film category. They will vote secretly according to preference in the order of not more than fifteen motion pictures, with the top fifteen advancing to the next round of voting.
Rules for Academy Awards Documentary Short Film Category
The rules apply to documentaries that are theatrically released non-fiction motion pictures dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects, with a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.
According to the Academy, a documentary film may be photographed in actual occurrence or, may use partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction. Works that are essentially promotional or instructional will not be eligible nor are works that are essentially unfiltered records of performances. Only individual documentary works are eligible, and this excludes multi-part or limited series, episodes extracted from a larger series, segments taken from a single “composite” program, alternate versions of ineligible works, and documentary short films created from materials substantially taken from or cut down from completed, publicly exhibited feature-length documentaries.
To be eligible for the Documentary Short Film Award, a documentary short film should fulfill at least one of the following qualifying criteria. The eligibility period begins on October 1, 2022, and ends on September 30, 2023, and this qualification must take place within two years of the film’s completion date:
- Film exposure in a commercial theatre: The picture must have been publicly exhibited for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theater in one of the six qualifying U.S. metro areas, namely, Los Angeles County; City of New York [five boroughs]; the Bay Area [counties of San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo and Contra Costa]; Chicago [Cook County, Illinois]; Miami [Miami-Dade County, Florida]; and Atlanta [Fulton County, Georgia], for a run of at least seven consecutive days with at least one screening a day, before public exhibition or distribution by any nontheatrical means. Advertisements must be displayed during its run in a manner normal and customary to theatrical distribution practices. Drive-in theaters are included as qualifying commercial venues in the above metro areas.
- Qualifying award at a competitive film festival: The film must have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival. Proof of the award must be submitted with the entry. The Documentary Short Film Qualifying Festival List is available at www.oscars.org or may be obtained from the Academy.
- Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal award: The film must have won a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal award in the Academy’s 2023 Student Academy Awards competition in the Documentary category.
The eligible motion pictures must be publicly exhibited by means of 35mm or 70mm film or in a 24- or 48-frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Image Characteristics, image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound files packaged as Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) in the “SMPTE DCP” format. Blu-ray format does not meet Digital Cinema requirements.
For films to qualify, submission materials, including the digital upload of the film for streaming purposes, must be submitted by 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday, August 15, 2023, for films qualifying between October 1, 2022, and May 31, 2023. For films qualifying between June 1, 2023, and September 30, 2023, entrants must submit all submission materials, including the digital film upload for streaming purposes, by 5 p.m. PT on Monday, October 16, 2023. Films submitted for the 96th Academy Awards in any category will not be eligible for consideration in subsequent Awards years in any category.
For nominations and award recipients, the documentary short film should be submitted in the same Awards year in which it first qualifies. The nominees should be the individuals most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process, and a maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control, and the other of whom must have a director or producer credit. Production companies or persons with the screen credit of executive producer, co-producer or any credit other than director or producer shall not be eligible as nominees for the motion picture.
All individuals with a “producer” or “produced by” credit on films that reach the semifinal round will automatically be vetted, and the Documentary Branch Executive Committee will determine which producer, if any, is eligible to receive a nomination. In the unlikely event of a dispute, filmmakers may appeal the Committee’s decision.
All active and life members of the Documentary Branch will be invited to view the eligible submissions in the category and will be required to see a minimum number as defined by the current procedures. Members will vote by secret ballot in the order of their preference for not more than 15 motion pictures. The 15 motion pictures receiving the highest number of votes shall advance to next round of voting. Final voting shall be restricted to active and life Academy members who have viewed all of the nominated documentaries. The Documentary Branch Executive Committee shall resolve all questions of eligibility and rules.
Rules for Academy Awards Live Action Short Film Category
According to the rule, a short film is an original motion picture with a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits. The definition excludes previews, advertising films, credit sequences from feature-length films, unaired episodes of established TV series, and unsold TV series pilots. Additionally, documentary short films will not be accepted in the live-action category, unless the picture is created in the cinematic style of a documentary.
The eligibility period for the 96th Awards year begins on October 1, 2022, and ends on September 30, 2023. A short film must fulfill one of three qualifying criteria to qualify for consideration. It must have been publicly exhibited for paid admission for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theatre, as listed in the six qualifying metro areas in the U.S. It must have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival or a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal award in the Academy’s 2023 Student Academy Awards competition.
Films must be submitted in a standard theatrical exhibition aspect ratio and formats accepted by the Academy, and dialogue or narration must be in English or have English-language subtitles. If a short film advances to the second round of voting, additional materials, including a film print or DCP, will be required, and shortlisted films must have the necessary clearances for commercial theatrical exhibition.
All eligible motion pictures must be publicly exhibited by means of 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24-or 48-frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format, and have a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, including object-based audio bitstream. Nontheatrical public exhibition or distribution includes broadcast and cable TV, PPV/VOD, DVD distribution, inflight airline distribution, and internet transmission.
The nominee(s) must be the individual(s) most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process, and only a maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees. The Academy retains one film print or DCP of every short film receiving a nomination, and the nominee list will not include companies or organized groups.
All active and Life Academy members will be invited to view eligible submissions in the Live Action Short Film category to vote by secret ballot for no more than fifteen motion pictures. The fifteen with the highest number of votes shall advance to the next round of voting, and the five with the highest votes will become the nominations for the final voting round for the Live Action Short Film award.
In conclusion, behind every Academy Award nominee and winner is a complex set of rules and criteria. Categories Animated Short Film, Documentary Short Film, and Live Action Short Film, have its own set of guidelines to follow. Filmmakers who aspire to compete in the 96th Academy Awards should review these guidelines carefully and prepare their submissions accordingly. With these rules in mind, we look forward to seeing which short films will make it to the final nominations and ultimately walk away with a coveted Golden Oscar statue.