Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains some of the most frequently asked questions that we get at The Academy Members Project. If you’d like to suggest additional questions for this page, you can email them to nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com .


Have you identified ALL of the members of the Academy?

No, not all of them. But a significant number. We keep a running tally on the Home Page.


You say that you are the largest PUBLIC list of Oscar Voters. Are there larger Private lists?

Yes. The Academy itself has the official list, of course, as do their partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Additionally, most major studios and awards consultants maintain complete or partial lists that they use to conduct their Oscar campaigns. Many journalists and media organizations also have private lists, which is how they can run those articles about the Academy’s demographics and get quotations from members so quickly.

But so far, none of those groups have been willing to share. Unlike each of them, we publish everything that we find.


What got you started?

You can find our full origin story here, but basically we had read enough news stories with anonymous interviews and demographic analyses to realize that the media was holding out on us. They claimed that the Academy’s membership was a closely guarded secret, but left out the fact that they were the ones guarding it.

We recognized that there was a vacuum that needed to be filled: An area of intense cultural interest (at least once a year on Oscar night), that no one was researching -- or at least, where no one was sharing the results of their research with the public. So we stepped in to fill the void.


What is the biggest misconception people have about the Academy?

The biggest misconception that people have about the Academy is the myth that all Oscar winners and nominees automatically get invited to join. They Don’t, as you can see on our Non-Members pages. Nearly every branch of the Academy has chosen to leave some of their own nominees and even winners off their membership rolls.

We suspect that this misconception gained steam as a result of two factors: First, Oscar nominees and winners from the better known actors and directors branches often do get invited (although again, not always), and therefore it became an easy shorthand for journalists to use in describing the Academy to the general public without getting specific about exact names.

The second factor that leads to confusion is that the Academy itself does waive one of the preliminary steps to entrance for nominees and winners: The requirement to have two “sponsors”. We think that some casual readers of the Academy’s rules may fail to notice that there are several steps after that which are NOT waived, including approval by the appropriate branch’s executive committee and a vote of the full board of governors.


How do you gather your information?

We have found sources for our research almost everywhere you can imagine: books, newspaper and magazine articles, archival documents, interviews, press releases, celebrity bios, artists’ resumes, studio websites, obituaries, targeted internet searches, and social media. We were even able to confirm one name based on a game show! On an episode of the $25,000 Pyramid that runs frequently on the Game Show Network, Clifton Davis admitted to being a member and said that he’d recently voted for Cher in Moonstruck.


How certain are you of your results?

An important part of our process is that we try to cite our evidence for each member right on our website, so that interested readers don’t have to take our word for it. We let the public know everything that we know.

As explained on our methodology page, names in bold font are the ones for which we have the best evidence, while names in standard font and italic font have progressively weaker evidence.


Do you have a separate list organized by branch instead of alphabetically?

Unfortunately, I don’t. But many web browsers have a search feature that will allow you to search each page of the site. (It’s Control + F on my machine.)

When I started this project, branch classifications were one of the most difficult things to determine. Many news sources and biographies confirmed that someone was a member, but didn’t say which branch they were in. Sometimes the branch was pretty obvious, but often it required a bit of guesswork: Was this writer/director a member of the writers branch or directors branch? What about the studio executive who had worked their way up as a producer or public relations expert? The art director who did a significant amount of their work for an animation studio? The multi-hyphenate talent whose branch might vary widely depending on which decade they were first admitted? As a result, I decided that an alphabetical listing was the way to go.

As our research has progressed, branch information has become both more clear and more complicated. We have found documentation confirming the branches of many more members than we used to have, and have also become more adept at recognizing which job titles have historically been assigned to each branch. But we have also learned that the Academy’s history includes people changing branches much more often than we would have imagined when we began. Sometimes this is the result of large-scale changes to the Academy’s branch structure, but other times it merely reflects the career trajectory of the individual member.

Given all of this, I’ll probably stick with the alphabetical listing for the foreseeable future.


Do many people leave the Academy or turn down their invitations?

“Many” is probably overstating it, but there are definitely some. The reasons can vary widely: sometimes political, sometimes personal, sometimes just forgetting to pay their annual dues!

Learning that someone has left the Academy or turned down their invitation can be even harder to figure out than the fact of their initial membership was. In some cases we’ve found explicit statements by the artist or documentation showing that they resigned. But more often our evidence comes from comparing sources and realizing that someone no longer appears where we would expect them to. (This can get even more complicated if someone later reappears, since we don’t always know if it means that they left and were later reinstated, or if the original omission was actually an error.)

When we do find evidence of someone who appears to have left the Academy, we record that information in two places: on the Members page since they had been a member at one point (and might later be reinstated); and also on the Non-Members page, where it is easier to search for them. (They’re the names that are indented on the Non-Members page).


Why is your website called “Never Too Early Movie Predictions” and your online twitter name @NeverTooEarlyMP ?

This site used to focus on making Oscar predictions, and making them very far in advance. But people’s interests change over time, and I gradually found myself more drawn to researching the Academy members than to making predictions. I have considered changing the name or starting over at a new web address, but the existing name is attached to several different social media accounts and known to enough online friends that I am keeping it for now.


Have you gotten any feedback from the Academy or from any Academy members?

We have visited the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library to conduct research, and interacted with the very helpful and professional librarians there. We have also heard from several individual Oscar voters who have found our site over the years, and several have written to us to make sure their name was added or to make corrections to their screen credits. Being an Academy member really is an honor that they take seriously, and most want their membership to be known.

But we have not had any official communication with the Academy or any of the Governors.

It probably helps that we never publish personal contact information like addresses, phone numbers or emails. We stick to name, branch and a short list of their most prestigious credits or achievements. Our goal really is to both identify and celebrate their contributions.


Are you planning on turning this into a book?

Probably not.

Economic incentives seem to be one of the reasons that the list of Oscar voters has been kept secret for so long. Whether it is studios and publicists who want to gain an edge in their awards campaigns, or newspapers and journalists who want to cash in on a yearly scoop or exclusive, the pattern remains the same: They ultimately decide that it is more profitable to keep the list secret than to publicize it.

I’m worried that monetizing this project in any way -- even if it was just to recover the costs of publication -- would inevitably draw me into the same pattern. The only way to avoid that temptation is to keep the project as it is: on a free, publicly accessible website.

An added benefit of this approach is that a website can more easily be updated as the Academy evolves. Every year we have new invitations sent out, new deaths and resignations, new Oscar nominees and winners. And hopefully, new research that allows us to identify and confirm existing members that we didn’t know about before.


There is a name missing that I think should be on your list. How do I add it?

We encourage people to send suggestions, additions, confirmations and corrections via email to nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com .

I try to reply to all emails and tweets within 24 hours. If it’s been longer than that and you haven’t heard anything from me, you might want to check in to see if I got your message.

Updates to the actual website sometimes happen the same day that new information comes in and sometimes take a few days longer, depending on a number of factors such as: how many total changes there are to make (from you and from others); which Academy events we are currently tracking (the speed of social media means that it is often better for us to focus our energy on information gathering during big events); how close we are to a regularly scheduled full site update (usually at the beginning/end of the month); and, most importantly, what the schedule for my day job looks like (remember: we are all volunteers!).


How can I be part of this project?

We’d love to have you be part of the project. The more researchers, the merrier! Check out our Join The Search and Special Projects pages for ideas, and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Newsletter as well.



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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Methodology Page

Methodology

This page describes the methodology used throughout The Academy Members Project. It answers the questions: “How do we know what we know?”, and “How do we go about our research?”.

There are a few guiding principles that define our approach:

  • One name at a time.
  • Citation of evidence.
  • Evidence-based inferences.
  • Using font strength, font color and indentations.
  • Gathering a community of researchers.
  • Modesty about our limitations.
  • A generous correction policy.


One Name At A Time

Because Academy membership is by invitation, the only guaranteed method of finding members is to find a document or interview where they actually *say* that they are members.

That means that every name on our site has to be individually researched, one name at a time.

Sometimes we get lucky and find an article that quotes several academy members by name, or discover a historical document that lists multiple members within or across branches. But even in those cases, we approach each mention as a data point about that particular individual.

We wish there was a short cut. But a quick look at our Non-Members pages shows that there are many Oscar Nominees who have never been invited to join the Academy -- and others who have turned down that invitation or left at some point. Even being an Oscar Winner does not always guarantee you an invite. Nor does being an Oscar host or presenter, or having a certain number of film credits or years in the business or even being a household name. Lists of these people can be a good place to start our individualized research, but they are not conclusive and require us to do additional research to determine their membership status.


Citation Of Evidence

Citations: Those nasty things that your teachers make you put in research papers.

But it turns out that they are really quite useful -- both for proving that you know what you’re talking about and for keeping track of large amounts of information that you’ve already found.

We cite extensively on this site, because we know that you have no other reason to believe us. When possible, we include multiple citations and hyperlinks so that you can go read the evidence yourself. But when that’s not possible we’ll give the old fashioned bibliographic information that you can go hunting for.

The types of resources we use include: Information from the Academy’s official press releases, publications, website and archives; trusted news media and entertainment media that cover the film industry and the Oscar race; as well as social media interactions with members of the film community online.

Ideally, we are looking for an actual statement that someone “is an academy member” or “is an Oscar voter”, or that they have appeared on a members-only committee or event. But we also record less direct and even circumstantial evidence as we find it, with the hope that it will eventually accumulate into a clearer picture.


Evidence-Based Inferences.

The Academy’s invitation-only membership policy makes it dangerous to assume someone’s membership status if you are looking merely at their fame or their body of work. That’s why we ordinarily require a specific citation to show that someone is a member.

But it is sometimes possible to make logical inferences based upon very specific types of evidence that comes directly from the Academy itself.

For example:
  • While we have found examples of Oscar nominees who have NOT been invited to join the Academy, we can logically infer that nominees who are seen participating in Academy events over the course of several decades are probably members.
  • Similarly, if we know that someone was invited to join the Academy, and is later seen participating in Academy events that don’t involve one of their own films, the most logical assumption is that they have in fact accepted that invitation.

This type of logical inference can also be used to show that someone is NOT a member. For example:
  • The Academy has made all of their invitations to membership public since 2004. So if your favorite artist had their first film (or their first big breakthrough) after 2004 and they haven’t shown up on the invite lists, then there’s a strong inference that they’re not members yet.
  • The Academy has published partial Memorial Lists on its website since 2003, and those lists seem to have improved in accuracy and completeness since 2011. So depending on when an artist died, we may be able to logically infer that they were not a member at the time of their death.
  • It was widely reported that 2015 was the first year any South Korean filmmakers were invited to join the Academy. If those reports are indeed correct, then anyone from South Korea who has not appeared on an invitation list can be assumed to be a non-member.

Note that each of these examples requires that we compare specific pieces of evidence on an individualized basis to show membership or non-membership. Those artists who we simply do not know about either way are better left on our Wish List of people who need further research.


Using Font Strength, Font Color And Indentations

Because we know that most readers are not going to click through all of our sources, we use visual tools as a shorthand to give information about the individuals we’ve researched.

As a general principle, Font strength (Bold, Standard, Italics) signals how strong our evidence is; Font color (Black, Gold, Pink) shows whether the person is living, dead or unknown; and Indentations are used to distinguish special circumstances that differentiate them from others on that list. The specific ways that these visual tools get applied varies slightly depending on whether you are looking at a Members Page, a Non-Members Page, or the Wish List:


On the Members Pages:
  • Names in BOLD font represent individuals whose membership has been confirmed publicly by a reliable and documentable source, or where there is overwhelming evidence of membership.
  • Names in STANDARD font represent individuals who have been publicly invited to join the Academy. While it is assumed that most people would accept such an invitation, they are not moved to the bold category until documentation of their acceptance can be found.
  • Names in ITALIC font represent individuals who are believed to be Academy members, but their status has not yet been verified using our rigorous documentation standards.
  • Members who have died are shown using the same three-tiered system, but in GOLD.
  • If we do not have enough biographical information to know if a member is living or dead, or to conclusively identify who they are, then the name is shown in PINK.
  • The numbered names on the list show those believed to be current members (including those in active, associate, emeritus and retired status).
    • Indented names represent individuals who are not currently members, but who may have been in the past. This includes members who have died, but also people who have left the Academy or turned down invitations to join.


On the NON-Members Pages:
  • Names in BOLD font mean that we have strong evidence that they are not members. Names in STANDARD font and Names in ITALIC font represent individuals who are believed to be non-members, but where our documentary evidence is weaker.
  • Individuals who have died are shown using the same three-tiered system, but in GOLD.
  • If we are uncertain whether the person is still living or dead, then the name is shown in PINK.
  • Numbered names are those who -- as far as we can tell -- are not members because they were simply never invited to join.
    • Indented names represent individuals who are believed to have turned down their invitation or resigned their membership at some point.


On the Wish List:
  • Since these names are still being researched, they are all shown in standard font (no bold or italics).
  • Black text represents people who are still alive, Gold represents those who have died, and Pink is for those who we aren’t sure about.
    • No indentations are used on the Wish List.


Gathering A Community Of Researchers

A key element to our success has been making our discoveries public so that more people can find us and join in the search.

This has helped in the obvious sense that more people looking translates into more names being found, more places that we’re able to look, and more ideas and hunches to follow.

But there is an additional benefit to this approach that we didn’t foresee when we began, and it has to do with morale. Several of our contributors report that they’ve often wondered who made up the Academy, and some had even begun to construct lists of their own in the past. But the size and scope of the project led each of them to give up when they were working solo. Research and archival work can get pretty lonely, after all, especially on those days when you haven’t gotten lucky with any new information.

By sharing our findings, we’re better able to keep the momentum going. There’s someone to share with when you find a new name, and more opportunities to celebrate what other people have found even if your own research is temporarily coming up empty.

For now, at least, we have decided to stick to a model of “curated crowdsourcing” -- where everyone is welcome to send citations that they find to nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com, but only the curator/moderator can make changes to the site -- instead of a “Wiki” model where people can write on the site directly. That may change in the future, but for now we feel like the extra level of oversight is helpful in maintaining consistency.

Learn more about how you can Join The Search, take on a Special Project, or sign up for our monthly Newsletter.


Modesty About Our Limitations

We promise not to hold back on our readers: We’ll tell you the names of all the Academy members that we know. And it’s equally important that we tell you what we don’t know.

We begin with our tagline: “The largest public list of Oscar voters you’ll find on the internet!”. We don’t claim to have the full list, and don’t pretend that we can compete with the private lists that studios and journalists keep guarded.

The Home Page also keeps a running tally of how many Academy members we’ve identified, listed as both an absolute number and a percentage of the entire club. It allows us to simultaneously brag about how far we’ve come, while making clear that our work is not completed yet.

Our approach to citations, and particularly our three-tiered system of BOLD-STANDARD-ITALIC fonts, keeps us away from speculation and overstatements. While some readers may think that we’re being overly cautious when they see that a high profile artist is only listed in italics, we find that sticking to our documentation rules helps us to safeguard the accuracy and integrity of the list, and encourages reader participation as fans research and submit additional information about their favorite artists. And we use the pink font color when we discover a name that we can’t identify who they are or if they’re still living.

We also have the Wish List, which could just as easily be called the “We Don’t Know List”. It fills a middle ground between those artists who we are confident enough to add to our Members Pages, and those who we have reason to believe are Non-Members. Some have been researched extensively without finding a clear answer either way. Others have received only a cursory look and are placed here for future study. In all cases, we need better evidence before we can authoritatively add them to one camp or another.

And finally, we have a whole page of disclaimers, making clear that our project is a work in progress and is not endorsed by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences (AMPAS).


A Generous Correction Policy

Even with all of these safeguards in place, it is still possible to get things wrong. We’re happy to correct any errors that come to our attention.

Additions, suggestions, corrections and verifications may be submitted by emailing nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com. You can also contact me on Twitter @NeverTooEarlyMP.



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Monday, September 22, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Contact Info

Contact Info

Feel free to contact us with questions, comments, tips, suggestions etc. You can also connect with us on the various social media sites listed below.


David Dezern
Curator and Lead Researcher
The Academy Members Project









The Large Association of Movie Blogs (aka The Lamb): largeassmovieblogs.com


Monthly Newsletter Sign up: here.


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Our Researchers

Our Researchers

The Academy Members Project would not be possible without the direct support of the following contributors, researchers, editors and cheerleaders who have helped us over the years:


Curator And Lead Researcher:



Core Researchers:

Individuals who have consistently participated in our research over a significant period of time, or have otherwise made a substantial contribution to our research efforts:

  • Birdie *
  • David Dezern
  • Richard Garcia
  • Brett Harding
  • Lorenzo Lorenzini
  • Alex Meyer
  • Sean Poor


Additional Researchers:

Individuals who have assisted with our research on a seasonal or name-by-name basis:

  • Elton Almeida
  • Rene Astudillo
  • Rhett Bartlett
  • Orazio Bellomo
  • Maria-Jose Benites
  • Ali Benz
  • Kip Brown
  • Joel Burman
  • Isha Edwards
  • Steve Flynn
  • Jan Gabriel
  • Katie Gillispie
  • Liam Heffernan
  • Morgan R. Lewis
  • Gary May
  • James Molnar
  • Michael Nazarewycz
  • Nostra *
  • Daniel Palinkas
  • Sonal Pandya
  • A Recollector *
  • Michael Schuyler
  • Pete Turner
  • Pongpan Yormin


Special Thanks

We want to give special thanks to the following archives and publications whose work has provided many of the citations found on this site.

Please note that an appearance below does NOT necessarily signify that any of these organizations endorse or approve of our work. Rather, we are grateful for theirs.

  • The Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, with particular thanks to Linda Harris Mehr, Louise Hilton, Marisa Duron, and the staffs of the Special Collections Department and the Digital Collections Department.
  • Awards Daily.
  • Awards Watch.
  • Bloomberg.
  • Box Office.
  • BusinessWeek.
  • Deadline.
  • Debrettes.
  • eBay.
  • Facebook.
  • Forbes.
  • Gold Derby.
  • The Gold Knight.
  • Hollywood Golden Guy.
  • The Hollywood Reporter.
  • IndieWire.
  • Instagram.
  • Internet Archive.
  • Internet Movie Database (IMDB).
  • The James Dean Gallery in Fairmount Indiana.
  • Legacy.com
  • Linkedin
  • Los Angeles Times.
  • Movie City News.
  • New York Observer.
  • The New York Times.
  • People Magazine.
  • The Playlist.
  • Reuters.
  • San Francisco Public Library.
  • Shadow And Act.
  • Southern California Public Radio (SCPR.org, 89.3 KPCC)
  • Twitter.
  • UCLA’s Arts Library in the Luskin School of Public Affairs Building.
  • UCLA’s Special Collections in the Charles E. Young Research Library.
  • Vanity Fair.
  • Variety.
  • The Wall Street Journal.
  • WikiLeaks
  • Wikipedia
  • The Wrap.
  • Zimbio.


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