“For Your Consideration” – How to Qualify a Short Film for an Oscar

Winter is awards season in Hollywood, the time of year when actors, directors, screenwriters, and other creatives are honored for their work by critics, trade guilds, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and most famously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With Oscar nominations slated to be announced on March 15, 2021, the New York Film Academy is proud to announce that films by three alumni are currently qualified in the Best Live Action Short category. 

According to the Academy’s official rules, there are three ways for a short film to qualify for an Oscar nomination. Continue reading to learn more about each one: 


1) By winning a qualifying award at one of more than ninety film festivals officially recognized by the Academy. 

Each year top festivals honor short live-action, documentary, and animated films which can then be submitted to the corresponding Oscars category. These festivals range the globe, from Hollyshorts in Los Angeles to the New York International Children’s Film Festival, from Cartagena to Bengaluru to Busan. 

Film poster for “Arabian Alien”

The Atlanta Film Festival is where Arabian Alien, a film by BFA Screenwriting alum Meshal Aljaser, qualified by winning the best narrative short award. The festival’s jury called it, a layered, suspenseful and powerfully strange tale of societal taboos and marital tension, told with emotional precision, silent-film-evoking visuals, cultural authenticity, and startling humor.”

NYFA alum Meshal Aljaser

2) By screening the film in a public movie theater for seven days in a row in one of these major US cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, or Miami. 

This year two short films qualified by showing in cinemas.

Film poster for “2ḦOOM”

2ḦOOM [Zoom] by Acting for Film Workshop alum Dr. Ariel Orama López is an experimental live-action and animation hybrid short film about two brothers from the Caribbean who discover what unifies them. Using the backdrop of the current pandemic and the all-too-familiar COVID communication platform of choice, Zoom, the film includes voices and talents from the Caribbean, Latin America, Spain, and Italy.

NYFA alum Dr. Ariel Orama López

This is Dr. Orama López’s second consecutive nod for Academy Award consideration with his previous short film, One, qualifying for an Oscar nomination in 2020. “I feel blessed by the opportunity to qualify for the Oscars two years in a row,” Dr. Orama López shared. “I believe that films more than entertain. They can heal us and represent who we are as humans.”

“Saving Chintu” Film Poster

Saving Chintu by Tushar Tyagi, an alum of NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program, qualified by showing in theaters as well. After a prolific festival run with official selections at over twenty film festivals — including the Oscar-qualifying Outfest and Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival — Tyagi’s Oscars campaign manager suggested they go for a theatrical run. They set one up at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, only to see it canceled due to pandemic restrictions. Still, the Academy accepted a letter of intent to exhibit from the theater as a qualification, so the short is now officially in the running. 

Tushar Tyagi

When your film, which talks about basic human and LGBTQ rights, HIV and adoption, is being watched and celebrated at the top film festivals and praised by so many, it is a very blissful feeling,” said Tyagi. “Now that we are a part of the 2021 Oscars race, it’s almost unbelievable.” 

3) By winning a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal in the Student Academy Awards. 

Winning the Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards is what qualified NYFA Guest Speaker Asher Jelinsky’s film (Miller and Son). Starring Jesse James Keitel of the new David E. Kelley / ABC drama Big Sky, the film was shortlisted for the 2019 Oscars.  

NYFA students in degree-bearing programs (AFA, BFA, MA, and MFA) are qualified to submit to the Student Academy Awards. Just this past year MFA Filmmaking alum Phyllis Tam’s stunning Fragile Moon was a finalist. 

Once filmmakers qualified for the 93rd Oscars, they had to submit applications to the Academy by December 1, 2020. Now, they’re waiting as members of the Academy review the films before going through three rounds of voting. After the first round, a shortlist of ten finalists in each of the shorts categories — Live Action, Documentary, and Animated — will be announced on February 9, 2021. The second round of voting will trim the list down to the five finalists in each category, which will be announced on March 15, 2021. Finally,  Academy members will vote for their favorites for the last time, with winners being announced live at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021.  

NYFA congratulates Meshal Aljaser, Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez, and Tushar Tyagi on their Oscar qualifications and wishes them great luck. Watch this space to find out if they make the shortlist — we’ll know on February 9th.

Want to learn how to make award-winning short films yourself? Explore our filmmaking degrees, programs, and workshops to find one that’s right for you.

“For Your Consideration” – How to Qualify a Short Film for an Oscar by

About Crickett Rumley

Crickett Rumley is the Director of NYFA’s Film Festival Department