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Useful Notes / Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film

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The Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film has been given out in various forms since 1931.

  • The award was first given out at the 5th Academy Awards for films released 1931-32. For this award the Academy did something it has never done for the Best Picture award: make distinctions by genre. For the first five years of the award, separate awards were given out for Comedy and Novelty, "Novelty" being mostly short documentaries.
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  • For the 9th ceremony for films from 1936, the Comedy/Novelty genre was eliminated, but the Academy still managed to expand the category to three awards: one-reel (~10 min), two-reel (~20 min), and a third award for short films made in color. In 1938, after only two awards, the Color category was discontinued. One-reel and two-reel shorts received separate awards for every ceremony through the 29th Academy Awards for films made in 1956.
  • For the 30th Academy Awards in 1957 a single Best Live-Action Short Film category was instituted, and has remained so to this day.

Films must be shorter than 40 minutes long. Earlier awards mostly went out to the travelogues and short documentaries that the Hollywood studios made to accompany their features. After the end of the studio system, winners and nominees are mostly independent productions. Since a rule change in the early 1970s, documentaries are not eligible; they have their own Oscar, officially the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Short films are not eligible for any other award.

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The eligibility rules for short films (whether live-action, animated, or documentary) noticeably differ from those for feature-length films:

  • The qualifying period for release spans two calendar years (as opposed to a single calendar year for feature-length films). Currently, the eligibility period starts on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the calendar year before the award ceremony.
  • The main method of qualifying, theatrical release, has different mechanics from that of other films. All qualifying runs must be at least 7 days, and start during the qualification period (thus, a film that started its qualifying run on September 30, 2019 was eligible for the 2020 awards). For most films, the qualifying release must be in Los Angeles County, California. For documentary features, qualifying runs are required in both LA County and New York City. Short films qualify with such a run in either LA County or NYC.
    • During a qualifying run, feature-length films must be shown at least three times each day, with at least one showing starting between 6 pm and 10 pm local time. Short films need to be shown only once each day. There is no restriction as to the start time of showings for non-documentary shorts, but dates and showing times must be published in standard local media outlets.
  • A short film can also qualify if it wins one of a number of Academy-specified film festival awards. While standard Academy rules disqualify films if they have been broadcast on TV or the Internet, or released to home video, before the qualifying theatrical run, a film that qualifies by the festival route is not so disqualified.
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  • Finally, a film that wins a gold, silver, or bronze award in a non-documentary short film category in the immediately previous Student Academy Awards is eligible.

Winners are listed below, as are nominees with TV Tropes work pages.


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