Motion Picture Academy to Allow Up to 3 Composers to Receive Oscars for Best Original Score

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced several rule changes on Monday (April 22), including a very welcome one in the best original category, whereby “three composers will be allowed to receive individual statuettes if, in rare circumstances, they all contributed fully to the score.” Previously, three composers were required to submit as a group and only one Oscar statuette was awarded.

Now, wait a minute, you may be saying. Just three years ago, Trent ReznorAtticus Ross and Jon Batiste won best original score for Soul. And, yes, all three composers won Oscars – but, incredibly, they had to share one statuette. (Reznor and Ross graciously let Batiste have it, since he hadn’t won an Oscar before. Reznor and Ross had won a decade earlier in the same category for The Social Network.)

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As we pointed out a few years ago, “The addition of a third collaborator (Batiste) on Soul meant that they couldn’t each take home an Oscar. That’s unfortunate, because that cross-genre collaboration is what many found most attractive about the score.”

The Academy, clinging to tradition, prefers to see individual winners in this category, but with today’s rule change, there is a mechanism in place for a three-member team to be awarded.

Here’s the rule from the Oscar rulebook: “No more than one statuette will normally be given in the original score category. A second statuette may be awarded when two credited composers function as equal collaborators, each contributing fully to the original dramatic underscore for the film. The music branch executive committee has the right, in what it alone determines to be a very rare and extraordinary circumstance, to award a third statuette to three individuals who functioned as equal collaborators in the creation of the original score and do not work together as a recognized band or group.

“In cases where three or more credited composers function as equal collaborators in a recognized band, a single statuette may be awarded to the group. Each credited composer in the band must agree to the single ‘group statuette’ option by signing and returning a ‘group award form’ prior to the submission deadline.”

There have been five other times when three-person teams won scoring awards, most recently at the 1987 Oscars when Ryuichi SakamotoDavid Byrne and Cong Su won best original score for The Last Emperor.

Four-person teams have won scoring Oscars on three occasions. The Beatles won best original song score for Let It Be (1970); Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Irwin Kostal and Sid Ramin won best scoring of a musical picture for West Side Story (1961); and Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold and Leo Shuken won best scoring for Stagecoach (1939). Those four-person teams would not benefit from today’s rule change.

The Academy also announced that the shortlist for best original score will increase from 15 to 20 titles, though the shortlist for best original song will remain at 15 titles.The Academy also announced that Friday, Nov. 1, 2024 will be the submission deadline for both music (original score) and music (original song) categories – which are the categories’ official names.

Other awards rules changes include:

  • Animated feature films submitted in the international feature film category are now eligible for consideration in the animated feature film category if eligibility requirements outlined for both categories are met.

  • The new eligibility period for the international feature film category is Nov. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024.

  • In the writing categories, a final shooting script will now be required for submission.

  • Changes were also made to the testimonial awards presented at the Governors Awards. The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production, will now be presented as an Oscar statuette.

  • The definition of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was revised to clarify the broad term humanitarian efforts; the award will be “given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry by promoting human welfare and contributing to rectifying inequities.”

  • Two special awards presented at the Scientific and Technical Awards have been renamed, shedding the names of the people for whom the awards were originally named. The Gordon E. Sawyer Award is now “Scientific and Technical Lifetime Achievement Award.” The John A. Bonner Award is now “Scientific and Technical Service Award.”

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