The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (©A.M.P.A.S. ® ) is a professional honorary organization with membership by invitation only, extended by its Board of Governors to distinguished contributors to the arts and sciences of motion pictures. The Academy (at its Web site, www.oscars.org ) asserts seven purposes:
To accomplish these goals, the Academy enlists its fourteen branches: actors, art directors, cinematographers, directors, documentary, executives, film editors, music, producers, public relations, short films and feature animation, sound, visual effects, and writers. But while ©A.M.P.A.S. ® represents over six thousand technical and artistic members of the motion picture industry and supports diverse educational and promotional activities, the general public knows the Academy primarily through its highly publicized Academy Awards ® .
To merit invitation to membership in any category, an individual must have "achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures," including, but not limited to, "film credits of a caliber which reflect the high standards of the Academy, receipt of an Academy Award ® nomination, achievement of unique distinction, earning of special merit, or making of an outstanding contribution to film" ( www.oscars.org ). At least two members of the nominee's respective branch must sponsor the candidate. The candidacy must then receive the endorsement of the pertinent branch's executive committee for submission to the Board of Governors. That Board consists of three representatives from each branch, except the documentary branch, which elects one governor. All terms run for three years.
At its discretion, the Board of Governors may also invite individuals to join ©A.M.P.A.S. ® in the member-at-large or associate member categories, two distinctly different types of membership. Members-at-large are individuals working in theatrical film production but with no branch corresponding to their job responsibilities. They enjoy the same membership privileges, including the right to vote, as those in any of the fourteen designated branches, with one exception—members-at-large are ineligible for election to the Board of Governors. Similarly, associate members cannot serve on the Board. Composed of individuals "closely allied to the industry but not actively engaged in motion picture production," associate members vote only on branch policies and actions.
All members pay dues, except those who have been extended lifetime membership by unanimous approval of the Board. These exceptionally meritorious individuals enjoy all member privileges. Dues from all other members fund the operating revenue for Academy activities, in addition to income from other sources such as theater rentals and publication of the Players Directory . But financial health comes primarily from selling the rights to telecast the annual Award ceremonies. Known colloquially as "Oscar ® ," the Academy Award ® statuette is recognized internationally as the most prestigious American award of the film industry; it is conferred annually for superior achievement in up to twenty-five technical and creative categories. Explicitly not involved in "economic, labor or political matters," ©A.M.P.A.S. ® 's origins tell a dramatically different story, with the monumental importance of the Academy Awards ® an unexpected outgrowth of the founders' intentions.