Monday, September 15, 2014

The Academy Members Project: Special Projects

Special Projects

In some ways, The Academy Members Project is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Everyone who has ever worked in the film industry is a potential “puzzle piece” that needs to be sorted into one of three piles: the members list, the non-members list, or the wish list. And just like a jigsaw puzzle, it is sometimes helpful to focus on one corner at a time.

Special Projects allow you to pick your own corner of the puzzle to work on based on your own interests. All of the techniques described here have been tested successfully by other researchers, so we know that they work.

If you’re just starting out, we recommend that you check in with our curator via email at before you get too far in. He may be able to provide tips or information specific to your interests, pass along ideas from other researchers who are doing similar work as you, or have formating suggestions to make sure your findings can be added as smoothly as possible.

For all of these projects, we remind you to be on the lookout for names that should be on our list anywhere (whether as members, non-members or on the wish list) and that you can email your findings to

Some of the Special Projects people are working on include:

Research The Movie You Just Saw

Several of our researchers have started a new tradition: Every time they see a movie, they go home and check out the IMDB page for that film to see which artists we have or have not found yet.

This is a great way to help keep our lists current for new films, and to help fill in the gaps for older films that are still being watched. And because you’ve just seen the movie, there’s more of a personal connection to the names you find, as well as an ability to know which aspects of the film really stood out as memorable.

How deeply you dive into the cast and crew can depend on your own time and interest. Some of our researchers only go as far as the director and lead actors, while others go deeper into the supporting cast and crew. For blockbuster films that have extensive credits, a few of our researchers even carry a pencil and paper with them to the theater so that they can make note of which visual effects and sound artists get their own title card.

Trailer Watch/ Casting Watch/ Film Festival Watch/ Box Office Watch/ Most Anticipated

Watching movies is its own reward, but you don’t have to wait to see a film to begin researching it for our project.

By the time a film gets a trailer, has its film festival debut or shows up on your “most anticipated” list, there’s probably enough information to do a search just like you would for a movie you’ve already seen. Similarly, some of our contributors have focused their research on films that are creating buzz at the box office or on the film festival circuit, whether or not they’ve personally seen them.

There are also several trade journals and specialty websites that report on casting and crewing developments in the works. These can be a great way to find new names -- although one needs to be cautious since early casting decisions and film titles often change.

Adopt A Genre/ Adopt A Country/ Adopt A Studio/ Adopt A Decade

Maybe you’re really into musicals, westerns or horror movies. Maybe you have a special fondness for the films of Norway or South Korea or Brazil. Maybe you’re currently binge watching all the animated films produced by Laika or Studio Ghibli. Or maybe you’re hooked on comedies from the 1980’s, or costume dramas from the 1950’s.

It turns out that your special expertise and interest would be really valuable to us. As a fan, you are likely to recognize important names and titles that general audiences (and other researchers) might miss. And as a result, you can help us fill in gaps in our project.

You can pretty much write your own ticket here. Make your search parameters as wide or narrow as you’d like, and then get to work!

Adopt a Branch/ Adopt A Field/ Adopt a Crew Team

Everyone recognizes actors, but they only make up 16% of the Academy. As a result, we could really benefit from some researchers who are experts in other fields.

From cinematographers, film editors and composers to sound editors, makeup artists and visual effects gurus, it takes some work to learn about all the people whose names don’t appear above the title. If you already have expertise in these fields then that’s fantastic, but you can also acquire that knowledge through online lists and books about the field.

Another approach is to look for teams of collaborators from different fields who have worked together on multiple projects. In some cases, information about the membership status of a mentor or apprentice may provide hints to the other’s status as well.

Awards Database Searches

Not every Oscar nominee or Oscar winner gets invited to join the Academy. But the list of nominees is definitely a good place to start looking for possible names.

It turns out that 88 years with 24 categories leads to a ton of names, especially when some of those categories list multiple nominees for each film. So we’re still working our way through those lists and would love some help with that.

And that’s just the Oscars. Ideally, we should also be researching the people who have been nominated for all types of other awards as well: The Golden Globes, the Baftas, the Goyas, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Emmys, the Grammys, the SAG,  the film editors guild, the sound guild, the makeup guild, the costume designers guild, the casting directors guild….you get the idea.

Memorials and Obituaries

We don’t mean to sound morbid, but death is a part of life. And it often is accompanied by important archival information that is essential for our project.

On the positive side, we have found a great many obituaries that include information about a person’s membership in the Academy. And we’re confident that there are more out there that we haven’t found yet.

On the other hand, the date of death can sometimes prove that someone was NOT a member. The Academy has published memorial lists of members since at least 2003. While some of those lists are partial or incomplete, others appear authoritative enough to declare someone a non-member if they don’t appear on them.

Social Media Gurus /Traditional Media Gurus

We do regular searches on twitter, facebook, instagram, linkedin, to find out if anyone is talking about their academy membership, as well as extra searches during key points during the awards season and membership approval process. But we can always use an extra set of eyes -- particularly if you’re good with any of those platform’s search functionalities or find yourself signed on a lot anyway.

We’re also looking for ways to publicize our project to make it better known. So if you’ve got ideas for what does and does not work on each platform, let us know!

The same thing is true for more traditional media as well. We try to make the rounds to read as many newspapers, trade journals, awards sites and industry sources as we can, but there are so many that we inevitably miss some. So if you’re a regular reader of one or more of those, we’d love for you to give us a heads up about anything we might have missed.

Building Credits

Our core researchers put most of their energy into finding and confirming Academy member names. This focus has meant that some artists have no credits at all listed on our pages, or that their credits aren’t representative or updated for their body of work.

Many of our newer researchers have found that updating and expanding the list of artists’ credits is a good way to start contributing quickly to our project, since a simple search of the artist’s IMDB page often displays their most famous work.  It’s also great for when you only have a few minutes to work with: You can often do a few names a day or as many as your schedule allows.

Archiving External Links/ Finding Dead Links

One of the greatest strengths of our project is that we cite our evidence, including links to websites wherever possible. Unfortunately, this is also one of our greatest weaknesses, as external websites disappear, change content or move.

This means that we have a need for two interrelated projects: One is finding dead links, and the other is helping us archive live links so that they aren’t lost in the future.

Basically, this involves clicking any external link (or every external link) to see if it still goes where it used to go. If it does, then the best thing to do is to archive it using the “Save Page Now” option at

If the link doesn’t seem to go where you expect it to, then send a note to with the artist’s name and the link that doesn’t work. With any luck, we’ll be able to find an archived version to link to instead.

If we can’t find an archived version of the dead link, then we’ll simply mark it as a dead link, but we will not delete it. This is based on advice from Wikipedia, which suggests that those links sometimes “reappear” (in either their original place or in future archives), and can sometimes still provide enough information to help other researchers find further sources elsewhere.

Going Mobile

I realize that if our project is going to be useful to people going forward, I’m going to have to find a way to convert it for easier use on mobile devices very soon. I foolishly created it on a laptop using a blogging system designed for desktop browsing, and honestly have no idea how to optimize such a large body of research for phones and tablets.

So if you have expertise, experience or even just suggestions of what I need to do to make that happen, please get in touch with me.

With any luck, I’ll finally get it transferred over just in time for someone to tell me that mobile has gone the way of the dinosaurs, and it’s all about holograms now….

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