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What Makes A “Best Director” For The Academy?

October 15, 2013 Film, General 0 Comments

What Makes A Best DirectorLooking for a role model?

As a film student, you might have some great directors in mind whose work you enjoy and hope to emulate. But, have you ever thought about what makes a great director? Or, what separates a great director from a “Best Director?”

The title of Best Director is given to those who have been nominated and awarded an Oscar by the Academy. You might have followed these nominations and seen many of these films, especially as a student of Film. Learn what separates these films from the rest, here:

The Academy

The Academy Award for Best Director (also known as the Best Director Oscar) is presented by the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. The nominations for the award are made by the members of the Academy’s directing branch, but the winner is determined by the votes of all members.

There are two ways you can become a member of the Academy. You can either be nominated for an Oscar or a member of the Academy can submit your name for consideration. You must be invited – and you must make a significant contribution to the industry. Today, there are approximately 5,765 members in the Academy.

Members can belong to one of 17 branches, which include:

  • Actors
  • Casting Directors
  • Cinematographers
  • Costume Designers
  • Designers
  • Directors
  • Documentary
  • Executives
  • Film Editors
  • Makeup Artists and Hairstylists
  • Music
  • Producers
  • Public Relations
  • Short Films and Feature Animation
  • Sound
  • Visual Effects
  • Writers

Traditional Values and Rules

Films that have won Best Director are traditionally noted for their heartfelt story lines and picturesque shots.

In an interview with CBC News reporter Martin Morrow, Canadian filmmaker Ryan Redford said, “Heart and sentimentality – more often than not – seem to win out when it comes to the Oscars.” This is believable especially when you consider the fact that comedic and horror films are not nominated. This is true across the categories – which seem to appreciate drama more than any other form.

It is also true that the Academy does not have strict criteria by which they must consider the contenders when voting. The Academy is allowed to consider prior work and prior nominations as they do not have to justify their vote. It is, in the end, simply a matter of opinion – the opinion, Morrow notes, of your peers.

There is one rule by which directors must abide: there can only be one person credited as the film’s director. Exceptions have been made over time for “established duos,” such as the Coen Brothers. But, this is rare.

It is also rare for women to be nominated for Best Director. This is mostly likely because there are so few women working as directors in Hollywood at this time.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are many gifted and intelligent filmmakers who have created stunning films, but who haven’t won Best Director. Only a few years ago, the public was outraged when Inception didn’t nab Christopher Nolan a nomination for the award.

According to Flavorwire reporter Jason Bailey, Nolan isn’t the first to be snubbed by the Academy. He joins a long list of great filmmakers who were never rewarded, including:

  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Buster Keaton
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Orson Welles
  • Howard Hawks
  • Robert Altman
  • Sam Peckinpah
  • John Cassavetes
  • Stanley Kubrick
  • Sidney Lumet
  • Brian DePalma
  • David Lynch
  • Spike Lee
  • Quentin Tarantino

Some of these directors were nominated, but did not win. Some were even nominated multiple times for multiple films. Does that make them any less innovative or inspirational than the directors who were able to win?

We think the answer is no. And we believe that you can see these directors as role models and innovators – even though they were never recognized by the Academy. Aspire to find a niche in the film industry that sets you apart and allows you to create the kinds of films you want to create. All of these directors, whether awarded or not, embody the skills we promote and teach at Brooks Institute.

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