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In Major Shift, the Academy Grants Agent Members Voting Privileges

Those cheers you hear are agents finally being allowed to vote for the Oscars.

An Oscar statue is displayed during the 92nd Oscars Governors Ball press preview at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood, California, USA, 31 January 2020. The Academy Awards ceremony will take place on 10 February 2020.92nd Oscars Governors Ball Preview in Hollywood, USA - 31 Jan 2020

An Oscar statue is displayed during the 92nd Oscars Governors Ball press preview

ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In a major shift ahead of the announcement of new member invites this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving member agents voting privileges for the first time. This has long been a sore point for agents; 111 are current members of the Academy, but have never been allowed to actually vote for the Oscars.

The reason: agents, no matter how powerful or creative, were considered transactional parts of the moviemaking. They made deals. They did not actually make movies. Of course many film executives, publicists, and members at large, who are also not directly involved in the filmmaking process, are allowed to vote.

Clearly, times are changing, as the Academy rethinks many of its hidebound practices. And so agents are being accorded voting status, at long last, and are being moved from Associates status to the Members at Large category. Academy members fall into 17 branches, including the crafts categories, actors, shorts and animation, documentaries, directors, and writers.

The two membership status categories, Members-at-Large and Associates, accommodate people whose work in the motion picture industry is not specific to one of the branches. In recent years during an ongoing diversity push, Academy membership has swelled to more than 9,000. Many members may be surprised that this year, inclusiveness is being extended to agents.

As the Academy has reached out to new members, many of whom are international and may not have mainstream taste, one reason to add agents to the voting pool is to push forward more movies that might pull Oscar voters to watch the show, as ratings decline.

What changed the Board of Governors’ mind? Powerful agencies like CAA and WME have been pressing their case for some time — many of their star clients are powerful emissaries — and the Academy decided it was time to recognize that agents are often integral to financing, producing, and willing movies into existence. They will also push hard for their own clients.

This reclassification will apply to current members and those agents being invited to join the Academy in 2020, to be announced this week.

Due to the pandemic, the next Oscars have been moved from February 28 to April 25, 2021.

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