Everything You’d Ever Need to Know About the Critics’ Choice Awards

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Photo Source: Caitlin Watkins

In the crowded awards season landscape, the Critics’ Choice Awards are the relatively new kid on the block.

Merely in their 20s, they have grown in prominence in recent years, offering another victory lap for contenders, often following the Golden Globes. Currently, the ceremony covers both movies and television, though the voting bodies responsible for picking the respective medium’s winners are slightly different.

To celebrate and get ready for this awards season, Backstage is rounding up all the basics you need to know when it comes time for each individual awards ceremony. Here’s everything you’ve ever wondered about the fabulous Critics’ Choice Awards.

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When did the Critics’ Choice Awards first take place?

The CCAs started immediately after the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) was founded. The initial best picture winner in January 1996 was Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility.” In 2011, the Critics’ Choice Television Awards were added to the mix as a separate entity, and then the two were combined in 2016.

Who votes on them?

Plenty of critics’ groups of varying sizes hand out accolades to the best of the best in any given year. The CCAs take that same concept—trophies from the people who write about rather than make the movies—and put it on a bigger platform. The organizations behind these particular honors are the BFCA and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA). There are currently 332 members in the BFCA, which calls itself the “largest film critics’ organization in the United States and Canada,” and 93 in the BTJA. Originally the BFCA, which began in 1995, was geared only toward those working in TV and radio, but now people who write online are in the mix.

How do they vote?

Film voters receive nomination ballots and send in their selections in early December of each year. They then have a few days in January to choose their winners and turn in final ballots.

The TV process is a little more complicated. An executive committee picks four chairmen for nominating committees representing drama, comedy, movies, and limited series, and reality/animation and talk, respectively. Those chairmen then select their committee members, who in turn choose the nominees. The rest of the BTJA membership can vote on the winners if they’ve seen everything in contention.

When and where are the Critics’ Choice Awards held this year?

The 25th annual ceremony will be hosted by returning emcee Taye Diggs Jan. 12, 2020 at The Barker Hangar in Los Angeles, California, and will be aired on The CW. A full list of this year’s nominees can be found here.

Who do they honor?

Beyond the typical categories, the film side also has trophies specifically for Best Comedy, Best Action Movie, and Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie. (Meanwhile, documentaries are acknowledged separately at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards.)

The fields for nominations can also be wider than, say, the Academy Awards. Executive producer and BFCA President Joey Berlin explained in an email to Backstage that’s because the CCAs tend to be a little more lenient if the race is especially tight. Rather than exclude someone to keep a category limited to five people, they’ll extend to six or seven.

What is the complete list of Critics’ Choice categories?

Film:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Young Actor/Actress
  • Best Acting Ensemble
  • Best Director
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Hair and Makeup
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Animated Feature
  • Best Action Movie
  • Best Comedy
  • Best Actor in a Comedy
  • Best Actress in a Comedy
  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie
  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Best Song
  • Best Score

TV:

  • Best Drama Series
  • Best Actor in a Drama Series
  • Best Actress in a Drama Series
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
  • Best Comedy Series
  • Best Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Best Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
  • Best Limited Series
  • Best Movie Made for TV
  • Best Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
  • Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series
  • Best Talk Show
  • Best Animated Series
  • Best Unstructured Reality Series
  • Best Structured Reality Series
  • Best Reality Competition Series
  • Best Reality Show Host

How can I join?

You have to be a film or TV journalist or critic whose work gets to a “wide audience” on a “regular basis” to be a member of the BFCA or BTJA, per Berlin.

How can I win the critics over and earn an award?

  • Sharpen your skills by studying acting, writing, directing, producing, composing, and more!
  • Read up on Backstage’s guides for a career in film or television
  • Read criticism, and get in touch with what journalists and tastemakers like in their entertainment
  • Get an agent, sign that contract
  • Master the audition and submission processes, and book gigs. Then keep applying to jobs!
  • Once your buzzy project is out, you may want to hire a publicist

For more information on this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards, check out their website. And tune in Jan. 12 to see who becomes this year’s real critical darlings.

This article was originally published on Dec. 28, 2017 and has been updated throughout.

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