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 .

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, targeted internet searches, and social media.

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 that we have the best evidence for, while names in standard font and italic font have progressively weaker evidence.

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 .

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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