The governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have made three changes to the rules for the Original Song category; starting with the Oscar ceremony that will be held in 2009, only two songs from any given film can now be nominated.
While any given movie can submit as many songs as they would like for consideration, only two of those songs could then be nominated for an Oscar. This comes is the wake of this year's Original Song category, which saw the movie "Enchanted" receive three nominations out of five, and in 2007, where "Dreamgirls" also snagged three of the five nominations.
"There can be as few as three and as many as five songs nominated," says Charles Bernstein, composer for "A Nightmare on Elm Street" as well as chairman of the Music Branch Executive Committee and VP of the Academy. "In two of the last three years, we've had three songs from the same picture nominated, and we did not want to allow one film to dominate all or most of the nominated slots."
What they'll do if multiple songs are nominated from the same film, Bernstein says, is give the two nominations to the songs that receive the highest score from the nominating members.
Second, in addition to the annual screening event during which members of the Music Branch of the Academy view clips featuring the eligible songs, DVDs will now be made available for home viewing for those who cannot attend the screening. Ballots will be included with the screeners and must be returned by mail.
"We've had a nomination screening in Los Angeles and New York where they would hear all of the eligible songs in three-minute clips - as many as 60," Bernstein says. "After viewing the entire field of eligible songs in the context of the film, we would vote at the venue."
Now, he says, the DVD screeners will be made available to members not at the official screenings, and they can vote at home and attest that they viewed the entire DVD before voting.
As long has been the policy with in-person voting, Music Branch members who have a song in contention for a nomination will not vote in the nomination phase; they are still eligible to vote on the final ballot as to which song receives the Oscar.
Each branch of the Academy reviews their rules annually and then submits their proposed changes to the Awards Rules Committee. The committee then makes their recommendations to the Academy's Board of Governors, who gives the final approval to the changes.
Members of the Music Branch of the Academy are selected via a process that includes sponsorship of two members already in the branch. While previous Oscar nominees and winners are automatically considered for membership, they are not automatically invited to join the branch, Bernstein says. There will be three members admitting this year, on top of the 235 that are currently part of the branch.