Why Do Some People Get Invited to Join the Academy and Others Don’t? An Explainer

The casual Oscar observer might wonder how some of the 398 new members invited to join the Academy’s ranks qualify for the honor that includes Oscar voting rights.

From Taylor Swift to Warner Bros-Discovery CEO David Zaslav, it’s not always obvious how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decides who to invite as next year’s class of new members.

Oscar winners are automatically invited to join the ranks after their big moment, so Billie Eilish was therefore invited after she won the Oscar for the James Bond song “No Time to Die” (2021) with her brother Finneas.

Some craftspeople are eligible for membership because their work was in categories that release Oscar shortlists before nominations, such as Swift, who was shortlisted for the song “Carolina” from the film “Where the Crawdads Sing” this past year.

Zaslav was invited to join the executive branch, even after his controversial moves such as killing “Batgirl” and purging TCM.

However, as the top executive at a major studio, it would be more strange if he wasn’t among AMPAS members. The studio will likely be putting films like “The Color Purple” and “Dune Part Two” up for awards consideration this year.

What’s behind the invite for Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz? It’s because the toy honcho is an executive producer on Zaslav’s upcoming “Barbie” from Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Mattel has more projects based on its properties coming down the pike as well.

Some may have noticed Talking Heads icon David Byrne was invited to the music branch this year after being nominated for co-writing “This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” However, Byrne already won an Academy Award for original score for “The Last Emperor” (1987) with fellow composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su. So why is the 71-year-old musician on the list now?

To be clear, these are invitation lists, not automatic new memberships. When a person is invited, they must accept their invitation to join, which is rolling, with no specific deadline. Like many industry figures, Byrne may have been asked over the years but may have chosen not to accept membership. So when Byrne found himself on the Oscar stage again, two of his music colleagues put his name back in the running once again.

Per Academy rules, the membership process is by sponsorship, not application. Candidates must be sponsored by two Academy members from the branch to which the candidate is seeking admission. Academy Award winners and nominees are automatically considered for membership and do not require sponsors. Specific requirements per branch can be found on the Academy website.

Sometimes being part of the team of an Oscar-nominated film is enough to be invited, like “Triangle of Sadness” standout Dolly De Leon, who is among the new Actors Branch invitees.

Over 1,000 industry professionals are up for admission into the Academy each year. Not everyone makes the cut.

Take for example, actor Brooke Smith, best known for her role in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), who was turned down after being sponsored by a friend. She expressed her disappointment on social media, writing, “Hahaha my Academy Award winning friend put me up to be a member of the acting division of the Academy, but apparently I haven’t done enough yet. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to get in next year (like Billie Eilish and others did)!”

The complete list of the 2023 invitees can be found here.

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