This time of year everyone starts to make predictions on who will win which Academy Award, but are you sure you understand the nuance of each category? If not, then have a read below and ensure that you have the knowledge to pick the right winners...
Best Picture – The most important award is given to the best feature film of the year (and is voted on by the whole academy). Whilst Directors enjoy considerable more attention and fame, the top award actually goes to the Producer(s) of the film. Their job is to oversee the entire logistics of the production: from hiring the rest of the crew, to securing the script, controlling the budget and ensuring the filming goes to schedule. Films often have Executive Producers or Associate Producers, which may be simply symbolic gestures to financial backers, but the producer is the person who collects the Oscar.
Production Design – Production Designers have the most important creative job before the film production begins. They are in charge of creating models and drawings that outline the visual look of the film. They create budgets for the production as well as determine locations & sets and costumes. They are also on set before and during filming so that the Director is happy with the background for the actors / action. In determining who should win this award, judges are looking for meticulous attention to detail so mostly period dramas or science fiction films do well.
Cinematography – the Director of Photography is the most important technician on set during production, who is in charge of creating the style of the film through choice of camera equipment, lenses and shot variety. They (along with the Director) choose the distance between camera and action, the angle, the focus, the lighting and sometimes even the camera movement. The DoP is the single greatest creative force on how ‘cinematic’ a film is, and how stylish a film looks and feels.
Best Directing – the Director is the most famous crewmember position in filmmaking, and is still the most respected. Their job starts during casting & rehearsals and usually leads through to editing. The Director is ultimately responsible for motivating and leading the team whilst on set, from encouraging the best performance of actors through scenes to having the final say on lighting and camera angles. When watching the year’s films, Academy judges (all of whom are Directors themselves) look for the film with the most coherent “vision” when nominating Directors, as opposed to the end result of the overall film.
Editing – the cliché about film editing is that you should only notice it when it is done badly. The Editor(s) take the footage that the director has filmed and then chooses in what order the shots go and how long they last. Action sequences have quick cuts at a frenetic pace that’s purpose is to excite audiences, yet is the bolder long takes that linger to the point of discomfort that catch the eye of critics and judges. The art of great Editors is to reign in or expand the work of the director in order to get the most impact out of a scene. If you think about a film as a series of good and bad scenes, as opposed to a brilliant film, then it was probably edited badly…
Sound Editing – sound editing is the production and capturing of original sound effects to fill the final film edit. This can range from artificial sound designs for lasers and monsters to replicating diegetic sounds such as footsteps or background weather. This award normally goes to the single technician whom is in charge of the overall final edit.
Sound Mixing – whereas sound mixing refers to the way in which the sound effects created by the editors have been layered to the right volume levels and fit together smoothly. This obviously includes the use of music (both songs and score) and dialogue / narrations, and is therefore what most audiences think of in regards to sound. This award is usually given to a team of people who have overlapping responsibilities.