Friday, June 16, 2017

Preparing for the Academy’s Upcoming Invitation Announcement

June is when the Academy traditionally publishes their list of new invitees. We’re expecting another large entering class, so I thought I’d take a moment now to review our process so that everyone knows what to expect -- and importantly, how you can help during that busy time.

On the day that the list is announced (and as quickly as my day job allows), I’ll post a link to the invitee list on the site and also send out an email to our researchers letting them know that it’s been released.

Contrary to what you might expect, however, I will NOT try to fold the new names into our regular membership pages until a few weeks later. That may seem counterintuitive to those who assume we would do an immediate update, but there’s a very real research strategy behind it. We’ve discovered that the Academy’s official announcement is only the starting point, not the finish line. It sets off a flurry of activity, with tons of new information coming from new members, existing members, journalists, and others. As researchers, it’s important to collect as much of that follow-up evidence as possible.

In the hours, days, and weeks following the Academy’s announcement, our top priority is to find and record as many reactions and responses as we can. In addition to stories from the traditional and industry media, we’ve discovered that social media searches on twitter, facebook and instagram are particularly time-sensitive. If we don’t find them as they are coming out, the evidence gets hidden deeper and deeper down those timelines, making it much more difficult to uncover.

The first 72 hours are like a tidal wave of information -- there’s no way that I could ever catch everything on my own. But even a week or two later there’s still a steady stream of information coming out from invitees that are just opening their mail, human interest pieces and international interviews as the news spreads further from L.A., and follow-up articles from news sources that publish weekly or monthly.

Because the rush of information is so great, I ask everyone who is able to help us look for evidence during that time. Here are some examples of things we’re watching for:

  • Sources that confirm (or at least strongly suggest) that an invitee is actually ACCEPTING their invitation. Sometimes these take the form of official press releases, but more often they come out as short social media messages. Even a retweet or a single word reply like “Thanks” or “Honored” can give us a sense of their reaction, so please feel free to send me anything you find, even if it wouldn’t normally count as stand-alone proof of membership.
  • Sources that show that someone is REJECTING their invitation. Yes, this really does happen. And the Academy’s attempts to cast a wider net may make this even more likely, since they’re inviting people who didn’t apply, rather than waiting for applicants who have shown an interest ahead of time.
  • Sources that list the SPONSORS of an invitee (ie. the existing members who recommended the new person for membership). Sometimes this is the invitee thanking the sponsors, and sometimes it is the sponsors congratulating the invitee. Not only have we discovered several members this way, we’ve also been able to confirm branches for others based upon the branch where their invitee was listed.
  • Other congratulatory posts from EXISTING members. It’s quite common for mentors or colleagues to post these, often with reflections or stories remembering when they first joined.
  • Congratulations, commentaries, or sour grapes posts from NON-MEMBERS. These sometimes come in the form of “hope you’ll sponsor me next year” or “can’t wait until the day I get to join too.”
  • Articles that give BIOGRAPHICAL hints about the new members. This is particularly important for the four categories where the Academy hasn’t traditionally listed any credits -- Executives, Public Relations, At Large and Associate members. If the person has a common name or isn’t in a position that gets much press, this may be one of the only times that we can positively identify who they are. These types of sources usually come from industry publications (Variety, IndieWire, Deadline, The Wrap, LA Times, etc.), and are often hidden as a single line or paragraph in their larger story that reprints the invite list.
  • Any ANALYSIS of who was left off the list. Particularly any Oscar nominees from the past year that don’t make the cut. Depending on their career and the number of credits they have, we can often use their absence from the list as circumstantial evidence to determine if they were simply snubbed, or if we should add them as presumptive members who didn’t need an invite because they were already in the club.
  • Anyone who receives a SECOND INVITATION (or third or fourth invitation). This can be a sign that they turned down the first one.
  • Occasional PUBLICITY, COMMENTING on articles, or answering QUESTIONS, with a link back to our main page as evidence. I’m not able to do this nearly as much as I’d like to because of the huge amount of new information coming in. But people’s peaked interest in the Academy’s membership does provide an opportunity to let them know about our project, and some of them might even turn into new researchers to help us in the future. As always, you are all authorized to link people back to our site if they’re asking questions that we have the answers to.

Once the flurry of activity has settled down a bit and I feel like we’ve captured all the evidence that we’re able to, I’ll block out a weekend to add all the new names and supporting links to the site, as well as take them off of the Non-Members pages and Wish List pages. That requires a lot of attention to detail and is also quite time consuming, so I won’t try to rush it. It’s better to take my time and get them added correctly than to hurry and make mistakes.

Thank you again to all of you for helping in the search!

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