Rule Eleven: Special Rules for the Documentary Awards - Feature
Please note: Failure to follow all instructions could result in disqualification.
An eligible documentary film is defined as a theatrically released nonfiction motion picture dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects. It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction.
The Documentary awards are divided into two categories:
- Documentary Feature - motion pictures with a running time of more than 40 minutes, and
- Documentary Short Subject - motion pictures with a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.
- DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
- To be eligible for 85th Academy Awards consideration, a documentary feature must complete both a seven-day commercial run in a theater in Los Angeles County, and a seven-day commercial run in a theater in the Borough of Manhattan during the eligibility period.
- The eligibility period for documentary features begins on January 1, 2012, and ends on December 31, 2012. All paperwork must be completed and received by the Academy no later than 30 days after the end of the qualifying runs. For films completing their qualifying runs after August 15, 2012, all paperwork, including legal contracts, must be completed and received by the Academy by 5 p.m. PT on Monday, September 24, 2012. Those films submitting paperwork by September 24 with a planned qualifying run before the end of the calendar year, but which may not have a locked picture by the September 24 deadline, may request an extension on the DVD submission only to October 24. (See Paragraph III.B.2 below.)
- Both commercial runs must take place in the same eligibility period and within two years of the motion picture’s completion date. A run in only one of the qualifying cities disqualifies a picture from Academy Awards contention in the Documentary Feature category in any year. Documentaries submitted for consideration for the 85th Academy Awards in any category will not be eligible for consideration in subsequent Awards years in any category. The picture must be submitted in the same Awards year in which it first qualifies.
- The picture must be exhibited using 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24- or 48-frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Image Characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound file formats suitable for exhibition in commercial Digital Cinema sites.
The audio in a typical Digital Cinema Package (DCP) is 5.1 channels of discrete audio and that is the preferred audio configuration, although up to 7.1 channels is acceptable. The minimum for a non-mono configuration of the audio shall be three channels as Left, Center, Right (a Left/Right configuration is not acceptable in a theatrical environment).
The audio data shall be formatted in conformance with ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Characteristics and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling.
- Screenings during each of the qualifying runs must occur at least twice daily and must begin between noon and 10 p.m. The motion picture must be exhibited for paid admission, and must be advertised during each of its runs in at least one of these major newspapers in each city: The New York Times, Time Out New York or The Village Voice (New York); Los Angeles Times or LA Weekly (Los Angeles). The film must have a movie critic review in The New York Times and/or Los Angeles Times. A television critic review will not be accepted. Advertisements must have minimum dimensions of one inch by two inches and must include the theater, film title and the dates and screening times of the qualifying exhibitions. Advertising must begin on the first day of the qualifying run.
- Works that are essentially promotional or instructional are not eligible, nor are works that are essentially unfiltered records of performances.
- Only individual documentary works are eligible. This excludes from consideration:
- episodes extracted from a larger series,
- segments taken from a single "composite" program, and
- alternate versions of ineligible works.
- The significant dialogue or narration must be in English, or the entry must have English-language subtitles.
- Films that, in any version, receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release will not be eligible for Academy Awards. (This includes broadcast and cable television as well as home video marketing and Internet transmission, with the exception of password-protected Internet screenings for press review or film festival submission.) Ten minutes or ten percent of the running time of a film, whichever is shorter, is allowed to be shown in a nontheatrical medium prior to the film’s theatrical release.
- A Theatrical Screening Information Form informing the Academy of the details of each of the qualifying runs must be filed with the Awards office before the runs begin.
- Entrants (including non-U.S. entrants) must have submitted to the Academy a fully completed Official Entry Form, 200 DVDs of the entry, without trailers or other extraneous material, capable of playing on Region 1/NTSC DVD players, (unless streaming technology is available) and all other required materials by 5 p.m. PT on the dates listed in Paragraph III.A.2 above.
- Documentaries will be viewed by members of the Documentary Branch, which will use a preferential voting system to produce a shortlist of 15 films. Five nominees will then be chosen by a second round of balloting, again using a preferential voting system.
- Final voting shall be restricted to active and life members of the Academy who have viewed all of the nominated documentaries.
- Copies Required
The creators of the shortlisted documentaries must submit either two 35mm or 70mm film prints or two DCP versions of the documentary by 5 p.m. PT on Monday, December 3, 2012. Following the nominations screenings, one copy of the work shall become the property of the Academy Film Archive.
- Nominees and Award Recipients
- The nominee(s) should be the individual(s) most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process. A maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control, and the other of whom must have a producer or director credit. If a producer is named, that individual must have performed a major portion of the producing functions, in accordance with Academy producer criteria. No more than two statuettes will normally be given in the Documentary Feature category. All individuals with a “Producer” or “Produced by” credit on films that reach the semifinal round will automatically be vetted. The Documentary Branch Executive Committee will determine which producers, if any, are eligible to receive an Oscar. In the unlikely event of a dispute, filmmakers may appeal the committee’s decision. In extremely rare circumstances, a third statuette may be awarded.
- Production companies or persons with the screen credit of executive producer, co-producer or any credit other than director or producer shall not be eligible as nominees for the motion picture.
- Advertising and Publicity Restrictions
Only documentaries that receive nominations or Academy Awards may refer to their Academy endorsements in advertising and publicity materials. A film that is selected for the shortlist may not identify itself as an “Academy Award finalist,” “Academy Award shortlist film” or the like except when it appears in a program consisting entirely of such films.
- Other Rules
- Documentaries submitted in this category may also qualify for awards in other categories if they meet the specified requirements.
- The Documentary Branch Executive Committee shall resolve all questions of eligibility or rules.
- DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Most of the Academy's Award categories allow for eligibility for award consideration by means of digital presentation, as outlined in "Rule Two—Eligibility" in the Academy's "Rules for Distinguished Achievements."
Here is the language (in bold type) in Rule Two that applies to digital presentation:
"All eligible motion pictures must be publicly exhibited using 35mm or 70mm film, or in a 24- or 48- frame progressive scan Digital Cinema format with a minimum projector resolution of 2048 by 1080 pixels, source image format conforming to ST 428-1:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master—Image Characteristics; image compression (if used) conforming to ISO/IEC 15444-1 (JPEG 2000), and image and sound file formats suitable for exhibition in commercial Digital Cinema sites.
The audio data shall be formatted in conformance with ST 428-2:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master – Audio Characteristics and ST 428-3:2006 D-Cinema Distribution Master Audio Channel Mapping and Channel Labeling.
What does this mean for filmmakers?
The first thing that you will need is what is now called a Digital Cinema Package, commonly abbreviated as DCP. The SMPTE and ISO/IEC documents mentioned in the general rule are international standards that define the technical characteristics of the DCP. As a practical matter, you can rely on specialized digital cinema mastering facilities to provide you with a DCP that will comply with these standards. Your original image capture can be whatever you want (film, digital video, CGI, and so on), but ultimately you will need individual, "one per frame" digital image files for the compression step of the mastering process.
Once you choose a mastering facility, you may discuss with them the most efficient and cost-effective method of conversion for your project. Your finished DCP will be provided to you on a computer Linux-formatted HDD (hard disk drive)—typically a USB drive or preferably a universal 7200 rpm SATA drive in a CRU drive carrier.
OK. I have a DCP. What next?
For your qualification screenings, as defined in Rule Two and the special rules for the various categories, you will need to find a commercial theater equipped with a digital cinema projector that meets the requirements outlined in Rule Two, as well as a digital cinema server that will play the SMPTE DCP you have received from your mastering facility.
In practice, there are only two types of DCI-compliant digital cinema projectors that are acceptable for your qualification screenings. The first type uses DLP Digital Cinema technology licensed by Texas Instruments to projector manufacturers. Be sure your cinema has a true DLP Digital Cinema projector, one that has a pixel count of 2048 x 1080, and not one of the industrial grade DLP projectors that typically have pixel counts of 1920 x 1024 with reduced color and other image performance characteristics. The second type of projector is the Sony SXRD Ultra HiRes Cinema "4K" series intended for digital cinema applications.
There are several companies who manufacture digital cinema servers that meet the applicable SMPTE specifications, and will play DCPs that are mastered according to these specifications.
These companies include:
- Dolby Laboratories
- Doremi Labs
If you are not sure, you may confirm with the manufacturer that the server you plan to use is "compliant" with the applicable SMPTE digital cinema specifications.
I've heard about encrypted DCPs and KDMs. What do these terms mean for me?
ENCRYPTED DCPS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED! NO KDM KEYS.
I've completed my qualification screenings. What do I need to submit to the Academy?
You will need to submit a copy of your DCP, as supplied to you by your mastering facility. As noted above, this will be a computer hard drive—typically a native SATA drive or a much-slower-to-load USB drive.
The encoding format of your DCP should be JPEG2K/Interop.
The image size for a "Flat" 1.85 aspect ratio should be 1998 x 1080.
For a 2.39 "Scope" aspect ratio, image size should be 2048 x 858.
Please specify the Target Color Gamut Data (TCGD). We prefer X'Y'Z'
** Your DCP should be pre-tested before arriving here and must be able to be played on a Dolby Showplayer DSP 100.
** Please include only one version of one film per hard drive.
Where can I find a mastering facility to make my DCP?
There are DCP mastering facilities worldwide. Please contact us for facilities in the Los Angeles area who can convert your submission to that of a legal DCP package playable on standard theater playout equipment.
** Please note that the Academy is not responsible for fixing badly transferred data.
Note: Facilities owning a DVS "Clipster" or "Fuze" product can create/author legal DCPs without encryption if enhanced with the DCP package option.
Note: There is also a non-encrypted DCP creation program that runs on Final Cut Pro 7 from Doremi Labs.
Remember, Digital content on a hard drive is fragile! Please ship carefully!
For more info on DCI specifications and the state of the Digital Cinema progress please go to:
And for up to date Digital Cinema goings on go to: www.dcinematoday.com
Definition of a Commercial Venue
To be considered a commercial motion picture venue for Academy Awards purposes, a theater must meet the following criteria:
- Regularly show new releases
- Charge admission
- Have regular non-specialized programming open to the general public
- Exploit and market films through regular listings and advertising
- Generally run films for seven consecutive days, with multiple showings daily
If a documentary film reaches the semifinal round, all credited producers will be required to complete a Producer Eligibility Form describing the exact nature of the work they performed for the film.
Working in close cooperation with a documentary director, a documentary producer's functions include active involvement in at least two-thirds of the following (each of which are not necessarily equally weighted.)
- Conceiving the underlying concept or selecting the material on which the production is based
- Securing any necessary rights
- Selecting and hiring any writers and collaborating on the development of the treatment/outline
- Securing financing
- Selecting and engaging the director, when applicable
- Managing rights, clearances, insurance and all legal issues throughout production
- Selecting and securing people to film/interview
- Selecting and securing shooting locations
- Selecting and briefing the cinematographer
- Preparing the final budget
- Preparing the shooting schedule
- Selecting and securing all necessary production components, including equipment
- Designing and managing production workflow
- Selecting and briefing the editor and editorial staff
- Supervising and approving day-to-day expenditures and cost reports as they relate to the final budget
- Supervising the day-to-day operation of the production crew
- Resolving day-to-day disputes and conflicts related to the production
- Ongoing viewing and appraising of raw footage with the director and editor
- Constantly evaluating the film's progress and need for additional shooting/interviews
- Selecting and briefing the composer and/or music supervisor
- Selecting and securing all post-production/editorial equipment and managing post-production workflow
- Viewing and appraising all cuts
- Spotting music and sound effects
- Supervising the music recording session
- Supervising all sound mixing sessions
- Conceiving and approving titles and graphics
- Approving the final print (film or digital)
- Planning and securing distribution
- Collaborating on the marketing, publicity and distribution plans for the motion picture
- Collaborating on the plans for exploitation of the motion picture in foreign and ancillary markets
- Can my film play on television, cable, pay per view, on demand, the Internet, or in other similar venues and still be eligible for Academy Award consideration?
Yes, but not before its theatrical release has begun.
- My film was broadcast on television in a foreign country for one night before it opened theatrically in the U.S. Is it still eligible?
No. Television broadcast of any kind anywhere in the world that takes place before a documentary's qualifying theatrical release disqualifies it from Awards consideration.
- What about DVD sales?
DVD sales are allowed on the first day of a theatrical run.
- What about schools and film festivals?
Documentaries may play in schools and at film festivals without affecting their eligibility.
- Does this mean I can't run a trailer on the Internet?
Trailers are fine as long as the footage totals no more than ten minutes or ten percent of the film's running time, whichever is less.
- I would like to name the executive producer as the second possible nominee for my film.
Only individuals with a director or producer credit are eligible to receive an Oscar in the Documentary categories.
- The entry form only allows for two possible nominees but another person who worked on the film definitely deserves an Award.
A maximum of two individuals may receive the Oscar for any documentary. In extremely rare circumstances, a third individual may be added on a feature documentary.
- My film has already opened and I didn't realize I had to submit a Theatrical Screening Information Form before that. What can I do?
Call the Awards Office and request a form as soon as possible.
- My assistant filled out the form and made some mistakes. Will you make the changes?
It is your responsibility as the filmmaker to make sure that all information on the entry form is accurate. When you sign the entry form, you are agreeing that the information on the form is correct.
- 10. I hired a company to take care of the submission, but they did not film out the forms correctly and they forgot to mail it on time. What can I do.
Again, it is the filmmaker's responsibility to make sure that all paperwork is correct and arrives at the Academy by the deadline.
- Does an HD-Cam or Blu-Ray meet the digital requirements?
Only a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) meets our digital requirements.
- I submitted my documentary last year, but since then I've added different material and removed other material. Can I submit it again?
No. We do not accept works in progress; the version submitted to the Academy must be the final and definitive version of your film.
- My film won awards at several film festivals. Can I include that information on the DVD?
The DVD should include only the film you are submitting without any additional information or special features. The DVD label must show only the title and running time. No contact information should be included.
- What advertisements are required?
The ad may be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. However, it must be a minimum of one inch by two inches and must include the film title, exhibition times and dates for all screenings of the film. The ad must run in The New York Times, Time Out New York or The Village Voice (New York); Los Angeles Times or LA Weekly (Los Angeles). We hope that you want an audience for your film as much as we do and will advertise your film with that in mind.