Most people know that to be eligible for Academy Award consideration, a film must play theatrically for at least a week somewhere in Los Angeles County within the calendar year. But what about short films? There are categories for those at the Oscars (usually announced coincidental with the viewing audience's bathroom breaks), but surely those little live-action and animated flicks didn't play theatrically somewhere. I mean, when do you ever see short films in a theater other than in front of the new Pixar movie?
The answer, which you can read for yourself in the Academy's rules, is that for short films, they either have to play theatrically (for three consecutive days, at least twice a day), OR win a best-in-category award at an Academy-approved film festival. And that makes a lot of sense -- the only way most of us ever see shorts at all is at film festivals.
So which festivals "count" for Academy purposes? I'm glad you asked, because it brings us to the reason for this post. The current list of approved festivals is here, and it has the usual suspects -- Toronto, Sundance, Venice, Cannes, Berlin, etc. -- plus about 60 others all over the world. And the news that's a semi-big-deal for our friends in Austin is that our beloved South By Southwest Film Festival has just been approved as an addition to that list. From now on, any short film winning the top prize at SXSW is eligible for Oscar consideration. SXSW is legit now!
Considering some of the fests that were already on the list, I'm surprised SXSW is just now being added. And it's a sign that the festival -- which, at 15, is much younger than its more famous SXSW Music Festival sibling -- has grown rapidly from a low-key, whimsically assembled party into a low-key, whimsically assembled party that also happens to be a world-class film festival. Congrats, SXSW! Don't go gettin' all stuffy on us now just because the Academy takes you seriously!