How a Film Wins the Oscar for Best Picture, Explained | Vanity Fair

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in 2017 there were 341 eligible films

for Academy Award nominations now remove

your buddy cop flicks your superhero

behemoths your rom-coms where the guy

meets the girl loses girl and then

surprise it gets the girl

you're pretty much left with the wannabe

Oscar contenders plus at least three

Nicolas Cage movies but that's a whole

other thing this group are all fighting

for the same thing Best Picture so how

does a film make it to the Dolby theatre

to take home the big one in the 90 years

of Oscars existence what constitutes

being the best picture has changed

dramatically in the 70s that trend was

stories of criminal and illegal activity

jump to the 1980s over-the-top dramas

set in far-off lands where the rage and

the Oscar goes to and the Oscar goes to

and the Oscar goes to this last decade

has birthed a new trend enter the film

festival for the past 10 years every

film that has won Best Picture premiered

at one of these world-renowned festivals

film festivals offer a unique space

where moviegoers film critics Academy

members and Hollywood stars all come

together for a few short days to

celebrate their films film festivals

have become so widely popular that

there's a film festival for everyone

seriously there's even a mustache Film

Festival held in Portland Maine but of

all the active film festivals and trust

me there's a lot we're going to focus on

just 5 first up Sundance the Utah

sweater-wearing Haven where films go to

find a big studio buyer these are what

we'd call our true indie darlings for

the lucky few films that are purchased

they're guaranteed award season

consideration come the end of the year

next we have the South of France summer

bash that is can dramatically chic and

perhaps a little over the top you never

really know how the audience is going to

respond ranging from a chorus of boos

to overwhelming applause now fast

forward a few months because the end of

summer brings the trifecta of Oscar bait

launching pads Venice Telluride and the

Toronto International Film Festival if

your film is serious about award season

recognition you're pulling out all the

stops here as summer comes to a close

the Venice International Film Festival

kicks off it's the world's oldest Film

Festival and serves as a jumping off

point for films with a solid chance of

both award and commercial success

nestled in the mountains of Colorado is

the most intimate of the bunch and in

recent years the most impactful

Telluride Film Festival tends to debut

the quiet contender packs a big punch

like this year's nominees

Lady Bird the shape of water and darkest

hour and lastly tip for two weeks in

September the entire industry packs its

bags and heads to Canada the beauty of

the Toronto International Film Festival

lies in the numbers while can is easily

the most prestigious of the bunch it's

accessible to only around 30,000 film

industry professionals

however Toronto opens its doors to movie

makers and movie consumers in 2016 it's

estimated there were four hundred and

eighty thousand attendees bigger

festival bigger buzz this is where Oscar

dreams are made and that's everyone

right wrong there's a hidden path here

that film goers and Academy members

alike can't ignore premiering well

before Oscar season these films are more

than just well-made they have a message

that connects with a moment in history

most recently a film like get out falls

into this realm others include Mad Max

fury road deemed by some as the

this picture of the year and the little

known winner Titanic for being well

Titanic with a new Oscar candidate

premiering every week Studios need to

find ways to keep their films at the

center of the conversation this falls to

the shoulders of massive marketing

campaigns in two phases phase one

getting the nomination much like any

campaign there are highly crafted

slogans strategic meet-and-greets and

advertisements begging Academy members

for your consideration marketing teams

can make or break the race with the

right campaign strategy as 2010's the

King's Speech find your voice tagline

dead or by offering the Academy the

write a list access like the artist did

with a screening that was hosted by two

of Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters

phase two go for gold statues now the

film needs to find its second act to

further resonate with the cultural

zeitgeist take the 2016 contender Lion

initially pushed as a story of a boy

reconnecting with his past once the film

locked in nominations the weinstein

company's pivot was motivated by

President Trump's immigration banner

they went with a fresh framing of an

immigrants right to a new life

essentially telling Academy members a

vote for Lyon was a vote in support of

immigrants this politicized approach

received mixed reviews from

Academy but behind all these strategic

moves lies one reoccurring theme which

has been mentioned several times already

this is an all exclusive Hollywood group

consisting of 8,000 members

yep we're talking about the Academy the

Academy is split into 17 branches each

with their own set of requirements for

entry for example directors need at

least two directing credits with one

being in the last decade you get the


Academy members can only nominate within

their field with the exception being

Best Picture which everyone can nominate

so after all the campaigning and film

festivals what does it take to actually

get nominated there are between five to

ten slots for Best Picture and in order

to receive a nomination of film needs at

least 5% of the votes from the Academy

the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and

Sciences includes more than 8,000

members so around 400 votes will do the


this is assuming all 8,000 members vote

and after a film receives a highly

coveted nomination for Best Picture

things get even more complicated in

order to win like in politics the

popular vote will only get you so far

unlike every other category if you get

the most votes you win but that's not

the case for Best Picture that's where

something called preferential balloting

comes into play so if there are 10

nominees voters rank them from 1 to 10

if no nominee gets 50% they drop the

lowest ranked film and their votes are

given to the second choice on their

ballot and they keep ranking the

nominees until one finally rises above

the rest breaking through that 50%

threshold plus one extra for good

measure and when that finally happens

voila you have your winner after that a

slew of PricewaterhouseCoopers

accountants officially tally the results

and the winning cards over to the

presenters and assuming it all goes well

spotlight great man 12 years of slave a

winner is declared thank you very much

and that is how you win Best Picture