In an effort to raise the bar for Oscar nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has adopted new rules affecting which producers will be eligible for best picture consideration as wel


LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- In an effort to raise the bar for Oscar nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has adopted new rules affecting which producers will be eligible for best picture consideration as well as the number of lyricists and composers who can qualify in the original song category.

Under the new rules governing the 2005 race, the producers branch of the Academy will vet the producing credits on all submitted films with multiple producers to determine which producers contributed substantially to each film. Under the previous rules, the Academy allowed no more than three producers to be submitted for a given picture, but it only arbitrated producing credits when more than four names were submitted.

Although the Academy will still stick to its no-more-than-three producers rule, it could decide even when only three producers' names are submitted that only one or two of them deserve the honor of a nomination.

"What we're doing," said Academy president Frank Pierson, "is further reducing the possibility of someone receiving one of our highest awards without really having done the job of a producer."

To vet producers' credits, the Academy's producers branch will rely on the arbitration process that the Producers Guild of America already has in place. "Just as we have long relied on the decisions of the WGA in determining the appropriate screenwriting credits on nominated films, we'll now be relying on the PGA's decisions on producer credits," said executive director Bruce Davis.

To counteract the proliferation of producing credits on some films, the PGA has been campaigning to reserve the title for those producers who perform substantial work on a film -- rather than those, such as financiers and managers, who are in a position to negotiate producing credits whether they actually work on a movie. Said PGA president Kathleen Kennedy, "The Academy's decision to use our guidelines of what criteria must be met to earn a 'produced by' credit is the ultimate validation of our members' work."

Hawk Koch, VP motion pictures at the PGA and a member of the Academy's producers branch executive committee, said that over the past four years, the PGA has developed a list of more than 80 criteria, involving development, preproduction, production, postproduction and marketing and distribution. Only producers who perform a majority of those functions qualify for awards consideration.

This year, for the first time, rather than arbitrate only those films where the producing credits are in question, the PGA has set up a mechanism to review all films vying for awards consideration. Because the Academy will follow its recommendations, the Academy will be able to announce the names of nominated producers at the same time it unveils its Oscar nominations.

In the past, when producers' credits have been in dispute, the Academy has been forced to announce a nominated film but withhold producers' names pending arbitration. That occurred in January with the producing credits on three best picture nominees: "The Aviator," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Ray," which were not decided until after nominations were announced.

In its original song category, the Academy is capping at three the number of writers who can receive a statuette, though the new rule stipulates that "no more than two statuettes will normally be given." There is a provision for a third statuette "when there are three essentially equal contributors to a song."

The rule was adopted in response to the situation this year when seven composers and lyricists were nominated for the Counting Crows tune "Accidentally in Love," from "Shrek 2."

The Academy also is instituting a new practice -- similar to the "bake-offs" in several of the technical categories -- where film clips containing the eligible songs will be shown at special screenings before the nomination balloting takes place.

The Academy also is raising the number of qualifying submissions necessary to trigger any of the music categories from four to nine. If fewer than nine scores are submitted, the music branch's executive committee will decide whether to award an Oscar that year in that category. Last year, there was a controversy when the Academy decided that though five films were submitted as original musicals, they did not merit triggering that category.

In another revision of existing rules, language was added in the best animated feature film category that stipulates that the animation must be done on a "frame-by-frame basis." The stipulation isn't aimed at traditional animation or CG animation but was inserted in response to an argument that took place over the puppet movie "Team America: World Police." Because the puppets were filmed like actors in a live-action film, the Academy decreed it was not eligible in the animation category.

The rules revisions were voted June 21 during a regular meeting of the Academy's board of governors.