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A Guide to Awards Season

By Skyler King

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Awards season starts on January 5th with The Golden Globes and the nominees being announced on Dec. 9th, 2019. While that’s still a ways away from now, it is fall and typically at the end of the summer movie season award contending films are released. Critics also start to using the term “awards buzz” when discussing films they think have a high potential of getting nominated. It’s around this time that studios will start to campaign for their films and actors to be nominated for awards. As we are in the midst of preparing for awards season, it’s good to know just how everything works.

For this article, we will be focusing on The Academy Awards, The Golden Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

What Types of Films can be Nominated

Before a studio can campaign for their film to be nominated, they of course need to make sure it is eligible for nomination. The consensus is that films must be feature length and have a theatrical run of at least seven consecutive days in the Los Angeles County, and released between Jan. 1st and midnight on Dec. 31st. Each award show has their own definition for how long a feature film is and it’s between 40 and 70 minutes.

There has been some recent controversy with this criteria as Netflix original films have been nominated, but their movies are primarily for streaming services, not theaters. For example, last year’s “Roma”, which went on to win Best Directing and Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Oscars. However, Netflix did show their films in theaters for a limited time, so they do count. There has been a push for the Academy to not qualify Netflix films for the Oscars, but the Academy denied that argument and stood by Netflix as eligible contenders for awards. 


Many movies are released and fit the criteria, but of course not every film can be nominated and there is a process to determining nominees. 

Both the Oscars and the Golden Globes use what is called, a reminders list, and this list is where they compile all the films, tv series and performances they feel deserve a nomination. Then they vote on nominees from this list. The SAG awards operates with a nominee booklet that they mail out to random members of its nominating committee. 

Each category is not allowed more than five nominees, except for the Oscars’ Best Picture category which has no more than ten. 


Audiences know those organizations that winners thank in their acceptance speech, if they remember to, “Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association” and “Thank you to the Academy”. That’s because they’re the ones who voted.

Active Academy members vote on the films they wish to win, but only for their specific section. Meaning visual effects Academy members vote on the best achievement in visual effects. Actors can vote for other actors in the acting categories if they are members of the Academy.  

For the Golden Globes eligible members of the HFPA are sent a final ballot where they vote and mail it back to the accounting firm responsible for counting the votes. The SAG awards have the same process. 

Campaigns and Screenings

Now it may seem that members are going out to the theater every day to see all these movies, but they’re not – they go to screenings. The Golden Globes requires that members eligible to vote must be invited to screenings of films up for nominations. These screenings are set up by the studios, who are campaigning for their films to be nominated.

For the 2020 Oscars, Disney is campaigning; “Toy Story 4”, “The Lion King”, “Frozen II”, “Aladdin”, and “Avengers: Endgame” to be nominated. There is the reminders list, but it is very common for studios to start pushing their films to be nominated and they do this by hosting screenings. They invite voters to come to these screenings and then they are free to go and vote for it if they liked it. Screening are typically held a week before the film’s theatrical release at the latest. This is how films get nominated before their theatrical run has even started, because voters have seen it even though the public has not. 

It’s a lot to keep up with and the business of nominating and voting is very serious, but it’s also quite fun to watch the build up and try to guess what’s going to get nominated. Now that we’re in fall, the award contending films are coming out and then it’s off to the races!