Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Join The Search!

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JOIN THE SEARCH!

This page provides advice and etiquette for those who want to help us build The Academy Members Project. You’ll find sections below with general tips for researchers, journalists and bloggers, public sightings and film festival attendees, archival researchers, internet sources for those working from home, and how you can sign up for a special project or to receive our monthly newsletter.

Of course, the first step in beginning research is to see if your artist is already on the Members Pages, the Non-Members Pages or on our WISH LIST of artists that we are actively searching for. In all cases, you can report your findings and ask questions by emailing me at nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com .


General Tips for Researchers

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. As our Non-Members pages shows, simply being famous, attending an academy event, or even being nominated or winning an Oscar does not *prove* that someone is a member.

Nevertheless, we have to start somewhere, and looking up your own favorite artists is a fun way to begin. Sometimes all it takes is a google search. We’ve also had some success by picking our favorite movies - particularly if it is a classic or is highly acclaimed - and then researching all the top people who helped make it - including actors and directors, of course, but also producers, cinematographers, film editors, sound engineers, etc. The logic here is that if a film is well-loved enough, then many members of the team may have shared in that success.

An LA Times article from 2012 claimed that about a third of the Academy was made up of former Oscar winners and nominees, so another good place to start is with lists of nominees and winners from each category (Wikipedia can help you find them). You can also expand your research to include the casts and top crew members of films that have been nominated for Best Picture, or for the truly ambitious, every film ever nominated for an Oscar in any category.

People who have won or been nominated for other awards, such as Emmy’s, Tony’s, Golden Globes, or various guild awards can also be part of our search. Even if they are better known for their television or broadway roles, that popularity is *sometimes* enough to get them invited for less famous film appearances as well.

Studio histories are also a great place to begin searching. Executives, producers, and public relations specialists all have their own branches in the Academy. They may not be well known to the public, but their presence is felt every time you see the words Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, Paramount, Sony, Miramax, New Line, Buena Vista, 20th Century Fox, Pixar, Columbia TriStar, United Artists, RKO, Focus, Lions Gate, DreamWorks, Lucas or Universal Pictures. In addition to the top brass, some studio histories can give us hints about career veterans in other branches -- the character actor who worked for years under contract, the production manager or stunt coordinator who would have won a dozen Oscars if only there was a category for them, the animator who specialized in character design or storyboards.

Don’t assume that you have to be a journalist, critic, artist or agent to participate (although you are welcomed too!), or that you have to live in Hollywood or be an industry insider. In addition to the internet and books, many hometown newspapers and regional television stations run human interest pieces about local Oscar voters, including lesser known members that are the hardest to find.

Most importantly, remember to email your findings to nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com so that we can add them to our list. Even if you don’t find absolute written proof, it may still be enough to have us add them in italics, or add them to the wish list, or to the non-members page. If nothing else, it will put them on our radar for future study.


For Journalists and Bloggers

If you are a journalist or a film blogger, the best way that you can help our project is to include questions about a filmmaker’s membership as a standard part of your interviews - not just for actor and directors, but also studio executives, publicists and all the branches of “arts and sciences” that make up the academy.

Note that it is generally considered impolite to ask a member to reveal which film or performance they are voting for (and it’s against the academy’s rule for them to tell you). But it is perfectly acceptable to ask if they are a member, how long they’ve been a member, what they think of the academy’s voting process, how they think the awards have changed, etc. Also be aware that the Academy has many other programs outside of the Oscars - from their museum and library to student awards and outreach programs - and that some members may be more open to talking about their work with those programs.

Once you’ve posted your article, audio recording or video, send us the information and we’ll happily link to it. We accept both “on the record” statements from quoted interviews as well as information gained “on background”, but ask that you do actually confirm membership rather than just assuming it. (A quick look at our Non-Members pages shows the perils of making such an assumption, even for the most famous of Oscar winners).

Besides interviews, there are any number of press kits, artist biographies and news reports that studios and film festivals put out intending them to be public, so don’t hold back on us!


For Public Sightings and Film Festival Attendees

If you run into someone famous at a film festival, a Q&A following a movie screening, a dinner party or just out in public, the most important thing is to be polite. We don’t want to become known as that rude group who chases down celebrities on the street or interrupts their romantic Valentine’s day dinner. They already get enough of that abuse from the paparazzi. But if the timing seems right, and the setting seems appropriate, then we’d love for you to pop the question: Are you an Academy member?

If it’s a film festival or screening where the panel of speakers is announced ahead of time, you may want to check to see if they’re already confirmed, or even write to me to find out if there have been any leads.

Note: The Turner Classic Film Festival and the TCM Cruises seem like unique settings where veteran artists (and presumed academy members) mingle relatively freely with movie fans and film bloggers. If anyone is attending one of these events, I’d love to consult with you before you go!


For Archival Researchers

The Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library is an invaluable resource for those who can make it to Beverly Hills, and we presume that the Academy Museum will be as well when it opens in 2017. Other public, private and collegiate libraries and museums probably have resources hidden away as well, particularly in cities that have played a large or historic role in the film industry. For example, UCLA’s Performing Arts Special Collection reportedly has a membership list from January 1, 1956 which we haven’t seen yet. (Box 249 of the Herschel Burke Gilbert Collection).

Many print newspapers and magazines have picked up stories about academy members over the years. Sometimes they appear as awards coverage or articles about academy programs, and other times they appear in human interest stories, biographical information, paid advertisements and obituaries. Sources that we’ve had success with (and where we think there is still more to find) include: Variety and Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and many of the magazines and newsletters published by film industry guilds.

Sections of the multi-volumed “Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television” have appeared online (sadly, often disappearing later), but we haven’t yet been able to go through the entire set of volumes. The series contains biographies, many of which include a list of organizations to which the artist belongs. Print copies may be available in some libraries.

Celebrity biographies, studio histories and books about the film industry might also give insights.


Internet Sources for those researching from Home

In addition to their physical building in Beverly Hills, the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library has posted over 5,000 items in their digital collection, including membership newsletters and publications from the Academy itself. We are slowly reading through these documents, and could use your help!

Of course, most people will want to start with their favorite stars, so feel free to type their name into google and see if you get anything. We’ve had some minor success searching IMDB (usually on the biography or resume pages), as well as Wikipedia and LinkedIn, but more often it is an artist’s personal website or resume that holds the key.

We also need help monitoring social media sites like twitter, facebook and instagram, particularly during the months of December through February, when some academy members will post that they are watching screeners or that they have just voted. (That’s obviously the period when most members of the general public tune in too, which means that there’s a lot of noise to sort through, and a lot of false leads that can eat up our time and sometimes cause us to miss legitimate sources).

There are many, many websites dedicated to the film industry and the awards race. As movie fans and Oscar lovers, we all read widely and hope that you’ll send in anything you stumble across. We’re also looking for people who will search through the archives of these sites for information that may have been published before this project began.


Building Our List of Member Credits

As curator of The Academy Members Project, my first priority is always to get new names added to our list. But a list of just names doesn’t really help the general public to understand who makes up the academy: They’ll recognize Brad Pitt, but won’t realize that a particular visual effects artist has actually worked on all of their favorite films. So we’re slowly beginning the process of transforming our list of names into something more substantial and meaningful.

If you go to the list of names that begin with A, the first several entries reveal the pattern that we’d eventually like to follow for the whole list. It goes like this:
  • Name, along with any alternate names that we should be aware of. (For example, Marvin Lee Aday is more commonly known by his stage name Meat Loaf).
  • Branch of the Academy to which they belong (when known).
  • A note on whether they are an Oscar Winner, Oscar Nominee, and/or have served on the Academy’s Board Of Governors.
  • Film Credits or Claim To Fame - In most cases these will be the films that they’ve worked on and can be found on IMDB, but for executives, public relations, at-large or associate members, a job title or other accomplishment may be more appropriate. We try to list films that they won an Oscar for first, followed by those that they were nominated for, and then a representative mix of critically acclaimed films (BAFTA, Golden Globe, Guild awards) and popular films (box office hits). We can’t list every film they’ve worked on, but try to pick titles that will be easily recognizable to fans of different ages and genres whenever possible. We generally don’t include TV credits unless it really is the role that they’re most famous for and that is most recognizable to the public. Since our goal is to identify and celebrate Academy members, we try to pick credits that make them look good, and leave the flops for another day.
  • Sources - These are links and citations that show that the person is actually a member. They are are our “proof” that the artist belongs to the club.
  • Learn More Links - These are links to IMDB, Wikipedia, the artist’s personal page or other places where readers can learn about this person. They may or may not take note of the the individual’s academy membership.


Special Projects And Monthly Newsletter

For those who want to play an even more active role in our search, we have a number of Special Projects that you can sign up for, as well as a monthly email Newsletter that you can receive.

And of course, you can contact me any time at nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com with any questions you may have.


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