The Origins Of The Academy Members Project
I have been toying with an idea for a while. Just letting it swirl around in the back of my mind. Not entirely certain whether it is worth the work that would be required, or whether anyone would be interested. Today, I finally decided that I am going to find a way to make it happen.
Every year around Oscar time, I read articles from journalists and film critics talking about how the Academy’s roster is a closely guarded secret. That “no one knows” who gets to vote on the Oscars. Sometimes it is used to give an air of mystery. At other times it is twisted to make the body sound like some type of evil cabal. What I have begun to notice, however, is that if you continue reading you find that those same journalists and film critics inevitably have another paragraph that reads “One Academy member that I interviewed said...”
I can understand that The Academy has decided not to release its official roster, and that PricewaterhouseCoopers is paid big bucks to keep the list out of circulation, but if every film critic in the country has an Academy member or two on speed-dial, then how much of a secret can it really be?
The most recent and egregious example came from the Los Angeles Times. There we read that “the roster of all 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a closely guarded secret”, only to be told paragraphs later that “Times reporters spoke with thousands of academy members and their representatives — and reviewed academy publications, resumes and biographies — to confirm the identities of more than 5,100 voters — more than 89% of the voting members.”
Fabulous! And now you are going to let me click through to see the list, right?
Nope. Unless I missed it, we received a few high-profile names, some surprises that were picked for their shock value, and several human interest profiles. Still, if they were able to identify 5,100 members, surely I could do my own research and identify a few thousand as well.
And just like that, the idea for The Academy Members Project was born. Granted, I don’t have the massive resources of the Times, nor do I live in L.A. or have any Academy friends. But I will be scouring the internet, taking extensive advantage of Interlibrary Loan, and compiling all the data that I can find in the public domain. I doubt that I will ever be able to give you a complete list of all members, but I will be publishing and updating the results right here as I find them, in the hopes that one day those news articles will read “While the Academy has never released an official roster, an extensive list of Academy members can be found on the Never Too Early Movie Predictions blog”!
WANT TO HELP? I welcome any suggestions that you may have, whether they come in the form of fully sourced news articles, insider knowledge, or educated hunches. I’ve even set up a special page with tips for researchers! You can leave those in the comments section, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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