Category: Awards Season

More Scripts

If it is awards season, then there are more scripts being released. In this stack is the story of financial malpractice, The Big Short; sports malpractice in Concussion; perhaps singing malpractice in Danny Collins, depending on your view of the warblings of Al Pacino; sublime chessery and rampant paranoia in Pawn Sacrifice and Blythe Danner ‘s multiple dating in I’ll See You In My Dreams.

The Big Short, screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, based on the book The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

Concussion, by Peter Landesman


Danny Collins, by Dan Fogelman

Pawn Sacrifice, screenplay by Steven Knight, story by Stephen J Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson and Steven Knight

I’ll See You in My Dreams, by Brett Haley & Marc Basch



How Many Votes Does It Take To Get An Oscar Nomination?

From The Wrap: By Steve Pond

Oscars voting begins on Wednesday and runs for 10 days, until Jan. 8, with almost 6,300 voters eligible to cast ballots for the 88th Academy Awards.

But don’t worry, awards contenders: You don’t need anywhere near that many votes to land a nomination.

In fact, one of those coveted Oscars slots can be yours for as few as 20 votes — if you’re a costume designer. The only Academy Award categories in which you’ll need more than 100 votes for a nomination are Best Picture and the four acting categories.

Mind you, we’re talking about first-place votes here. Most Oscar categories are nominated using a preferential balloting system; voters rank their five favorites in order of preference, but their vote really only goes to the film ranked first on their ballot, unless that film has either secured a nomination or been eliminated from contention.

Because almost all Oscars nominations are determined by voters from a specific branch of the Academy, and because AMPAS is pretty particular about whom they let into those branches, the numbers that’ll land you a nomination are in many cases surprisingly low.

The basic rule is that you take the number of ballots cast in any category, divide by the number of nomination slots available plus one (usually 5+1=6), and round up to the next largest whole number; that’ll give you a vote count that guarantees you’ll be nominated.

Here’s the current Oscars math, based on the Academy’s branch counts for this voting year.

Because almost all Oscars nominations are determined by voters from a specific branch of the Academy, and because AMPAS is pretty particular about whom they let into those branches, the numbers that’ll land you a nomination are in many cases surprisingly low.

The basic rule is that you take the number of ballots cast in any category, divide by the number of nomination slots available plus one (usually 5+1=6), and round up to the next largest whole number; that’ll give you a vote count that guarantees you’ll be nominated.

Here’s the current Oscars math, based on the Academy’s branch counts for this voting year.

This year, says AMPAS, 6,291 members are eligible to cast ballots. If they all vote — we know they won’t, but the accountants and the Academy say participation is very high — it would take 571 first-place votes to secure a Best Picture nomination after the initial round of counting.

But the process then uses the so-called “surplus rule” to reallocate ballots for films that had significantly more support than they needed, and it redistributes the ballots of voters whose first choices receive fewer than 62 votes to their second (or third, or fourth…) choices.

At the end of that redistribution (again, assuming full participation), any film with more than 5 percent of the votes, which equals 315 votes, would be a nominee.

The Directors Branch currently contains 394 members, which means the magic number for a nomination is 66 first-place votes.

Although its membership has fallen slightly for three consecutive years, the Actors Branch remains by far the largest of the Academy’s branches. If all of its 1,138 voting members participate, it’ll take 190 votes to secure a Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress nod.

There’s no magic number in this category. Nomination voting is done by volunteer members of the Animated Feature Film Award Screening Committees, a group whose membership is typically a mixture drawn from the 401 members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch and others from across the Academy.

Members of the committees must see 66 percent of the eligible films — this year, 11 out of 16 — and score each film on a scale of 6 to 10. The movies with the five highest scores are nominated, provided they each average at least 7.5.

With 227 branch members, it’ll take 38 votes for a nomination.

The Costume Designers Branch, which in recent years split off from the Designers Branch, is made up of 115 members. If 20 of them put you first on their ballot, you’re in.

With a 278-member branch, the magic number is 47.

A first round of voting narrowed the field from 124 eligible films to a 15-film shortlist. A second round will narrow the 15 films down to five nominees. If everyone in the 237-member branch votes in this second round, the magic number is 40.

Unlike the doc-feature category, the doc-short category still uses committees within the Documentary Branch to score the contenders and narrow the field to 10. Members of the branch are then eligible to vote for the nominees using the preferential system, which would make the magic number 40 if they all voted. (Which is unlikely.)

The branch contains 254 members, so the number is 43.

There is no specific branch governing this category; instead, volunteers from all branches of the Academy (the “general committee”) participate in a first round of voting that helps narrow the field down to nine shortlisted films.

The weekend before Oscar nominations, the shortlist will be narrowed to five nominees by 10 randomly chosen members of the general committee and 30 hand-picked Academy members in Los Angeles, New York and London, who will view all of the shortlisted films and vote.

Members of the branch who can attend a meeting have already narrowed the field down to seven. (At least 15 voters must have attended the meeting.)

On Jan. 9, a screening will be held of 10-minute excerpts from the seven shortlisted films. At the screening, all members of the branch who have seen all seven of the films will receive ballots and vote for three films, in order of preference; members who cannot attend the “bakeoff” but who have seen all the shortlisted films can also request ballots.

If all 141 members have seen all seven shortlisted films and opt to vote, which seems highly unlikely, the magic number would be 24.

The Music Branch is made up of 257 members, so 43 of them are enough to guarantee a nomination for songs or scores. (Members of the branch will also receive a DVD containing three-minute clips of each of the eligible songs, and they’re asked to view those clips before voting.)

Volunteers from the 401-member Short Films and Feature Animation branch have selected 10-film shortlists in the two categories. Members of the branch who see all the shortlisted films are eligible to score each film on a scale of six to 10, with the top five films scoring higher than 7.5 becoming nominees.

If fewer than five films score that highly, the category can have as few as three nominees.

The 437-member Sound Branch is the second-biggest among the branches that nominate their own awards. (The Executives and Producers Branches are bigger, with 458 and 483 members, respectively, but their members only vote to nominate Best Picture.)
The magic number for the two sound awards is 73.

The 359-member Visual Effects Branch’s executive committee determined a 10-film shortlist, and all members of the branch are now invited to a Jan. 9 screening of excerpts from the shortlisted films, followed by a discussion with the visual effects artists responsible. At that screening, the 10 shortlisted films will be narrowed to five nominees using preferential voting.

If every single member of the branch happens to be in town and comes to the Academy for the screening, the number would be 57. But they won’t be, so the real number will be a lot lower.

The Writers Branch has 392 members, which makes the magic number for writing awards 66.

We’ll know how all the math played out on Jan. 14, when nominations for the 88th Academy Awards are announced.

Making Period Films Feel Fresh

The Wrap recently sat down with the writers of three period films (Brooklyn, Suffragette and The Danish Girl) to discuss how to bring out the lessons we can learn from the past and how these films still matter today, despite being set decades in the past:

Nick Hornby, Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a movie of big emotions, but without the kind of big conflicts you’d usually find in a film like this. It’s delicate, emotionally.

I think that was the thing that we were all the most conscious of when we were making it–the delicacy. It’s interesting that there’s no baddie, really. In terms of the central characters, they are all lovely and they all want the best for each other, pretty much.

But I guess the truth is that the experience of living is extremely painful. The intense homesickness, which I have not seen done on screen before, is a big feeling that we all have. And loss, of course. So it felt to me like there was plenty in there without having that conventional structure of obstacle/opposition/whatever. How many of us have baddies in our lives, actually? I don’t have any in mine. A couple of critics, that’s about as far as it goes. And yet, life is difficult and sad and occasionally exhilarating.

Director John Crowley has said that it had to be emotional but not sentimental. Do you need sensitive radar to figure out where that line is?

I felt emotional when I was writing it, and it never occurred to me that it would be sentimental. I just felt the weight of the story and the sadness that was buried in the story as a sort of weight in my chest. I have no idea whether that affected the actual writing. It could have been merely hopeful, like playing a piece of music that you love and hoping that ends up in your writing somewhere.

I tend not to write sentimentally — it makes me feel yucky if I think I’ve done something that’s sentimental. But I knew that we wanted to be close in on this girl [Saoirse Ronan], and to feel everything that she felt.


As an Englishman, did you feel connected to this very Irish story?

I think we’re quite similar, really, the English and the Irish. Of course, the English didn’t emigrate in the same numbers, but in terms of what life was like in those decades, I think our experience wasn’t so different. I read the book and thought, “I can do this.”

Your first few books were about guys of a certain age, sports fans and music fans. But the movies you’ve written — An Education, Wild and now Brooklyn – have young female protagonists. Was that a conscious choice?

After the first three books, I thought, “I don’t know if there’s anything else I want to say about certain guys.” I hoped that I had some sort of long career ahead of me, which meant that I would have to write about everybody. And after I wrote An Education, I got a lot of confidence — or, at least, any fear about writing about a young woman was taken away.

Emory Cohen as "Tony" and Saoirse Ronan as "Eilis" in BROOKLYN. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Also after An Education, one of the things that struck me is that if you write these big parts for young women, you get to work with the best talent in the world, because they’re not spoilt for choice. The guys are all like, “Yeah, it’s a nice indie movie, but someone’s just offered me $20 million to wear a superhero suit, so thanks for your interest.” Meanwhile the girls are playing the superhero’s girlfriend. And when they get these scripts where every single page is about them, it’s kind of amazing.

So we got Carey [Mulligan, for An Education] and Saoirse, and they are the best actresses of their age. That’s quite an incentive for a writer and filmmaker, to think that there is this untapped talent that actively wants to do what you’re interested in writing about.

Lucinda Coxon, The Danish Girl

How did you get involved in adapting David Ebershoff’s novel?

Gail Mutrux optioned the book in 2000, and in 2004 she sent it to me to see if I’d be interested in adapting it. They thought there was something in my sensibility, and they were interested in the fact that I was a playwright, which at the time I didn’t think was relevant. I had no prior knowledge of the story, but I was intrigued. So I started reading the novel and researching alongside it, to assess where the novel was fictionalized and how much of the original story was in there.

I was just amazed by the love story between Einar and Gerda [Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander], really. And once I found out more about the real story, I was amazed by the portrait of the marriage and the two artists. It was period, but it also felt fantastically modern–ahead of us, in many ways. I think the importance of sharing that story with people was kind of overwhelming. I became such a bore about it that friends were afraid to catch my eye at parties.

So I worked on the script and everyone loved it and I thought “OK, here we go.” [Laughs] That was a decade ago.

You said that at first you didn’t think your being a playwright was relevant. Did it become relevant?
I can see now that it was. I knew I wanted something that was very intimate, almost claustrophobic, where you are almost under the skin of the marriage. And there is something about that that is similar to writing a play, where you stay under the surface of the material for a very long time. And I hope that’s part of the intensity of the film. I stripped out the obvious fictions and the extraneous characters in the novel, and I kept the focus very tight. It was really about the couple and the art and the spaces in between.


Is the film truer to the actual events than the novel was?
It is truer. In the novel, Gerda had become Greta, and she’d been Americanized–she was an orange heiress from Pasadena. But it was quite a superficial change, and she was emotionally the same. And when I met David, to his credit and my great relief, the first thing he said was, “I’m really sorry about that thing about Greta being American. You’ll have to fix that right away.” But he had done a lot of the difficult spade work, and his novel is still very present in the movie, I think.


It’s been more than a decade since you began working on this story about a transgender person — and now we have Transparent, and Caitlin Jenner…
It’s bizarre. One of the reasons it’s taken this long is that the subject matter was commercially toxic. We had big actors and directors who were keen to be involved, and we almost made the film several times. But it was very, very difficult to finance because of the subject matter. It’s remarkable that the zeitgeist has shifted and all this progress has been made. And I couldn’t be happier that we can talk about transgender issues so openly now, because the truth is we’re all much more alike than we are different.

There was a terrible moment when I thought, “We’ve been ahead of it for a decade, and now we’re almost behind it!” People have stopped short of accusing us of jumping on a bandwagon–which is good, because, my God, I’ve been pushing this bandwagon up the hill for a very long time.

Abi Morgan, Suffragette

What was your reaction when director Sarah Gavron came to you to write a movie about the suffragette movement?
I didn’t look at the material for about six months. I thought, “Oh god, corsets and period?” But I looked at some of the testimonials working women gave in the Houses of Parliament, and I found them so moving. Always, if I get really interested in the research, it pulls me in. But it took me forever to write it. It’s horrific how many drafts I did.

Unlike adapting a novel, if you’re trying to capture a movement you’re starting from a much vaguer point.
Absolutely. It’s all about what you leave out. I did a version that was completelyDownton Abbey-esque, around an upper-class character. I don’t know what I was on. But into that I brought the character of a seamstress/laundress, and I became more and more interested in her. And when I started to look at the hierarchy of the movement, I thought well, they keep referring to the foot soldiers. Who are these women? They aren’t all middle-class, Mary-Poppins-bashing-the-tambourine women. And I came back to the testimonials, and though, “Oh, it’s you. And you had so much to lose. If you were in prison for a week, you lost your job.” I felt that the economics of what it meant to be a woman at that time were really interesting, and that’s what made me home in.

It’s a very tiny story, but I hope it has bigger political effect. This film is about feminism, and has parallels in the modern fight against inequality.


Were you thinking about that current political resonance as you were writing it?
No, not at all. People keep saying, “Did you want to write a feminist film?” And I don’t think like that. But with the digital age we have such a growing social activism, and we can’t ignore the global inequalities. We can YouTube the stoning of a woman in the Middle East, or the gang rape of a woman in India, or just the basic inequalities of a sweatshop in the U.K. I think it’s ignited a growing feminism and activism amongst the generation underneath me.

And then running parallel with that, you do get excited about working with so many women. The core producers, director, writer, production designer, costume designer — all women, except for one male producer. Usually when I write a movie, I’m lucky if I get one good actress. But suddenly, I could think, “What if we had two or three great actresses in a film? Or a great ensemble, like Scorsese has with men?” And then it just became fun to make the movie together and share stories, and just be on the set with that many women.