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« Soundtracking: "Magnolia" | Main | Screen Actors Guild Nominations 2017 »
Wednesday
Dec132017

"Everyone is Nominated... but you!" Our annual SAG Ensemble Rules Exposé

by Nathaniel R

Betty Gabriel is not included in the Get Out ensemble nomination. For shame, SAG!The Film Experience started a tradition of exposing the Screen Actors Guild Awards unfortunate rules regarding ensemble nominations back in 2004. If you'd like a little history as to why we became advocates for change in this matter you can find the details at the bottom of the post. But for now let it suffice to say that SAG's rules for inclusion strike us as punitive for less famous actors and thus unbecoming given that they are a union and unions are ostensibly there to support the workers. The rule boils down to this: you need your own title card in a movie to be so honored - being on a shared title card or in the credits scroll won't do. With a new set of nominees for Outstanding Cast of a Motion Picture let's investigate which valuable players were unjustly left out while their (usually) more famous coworkers were honored, no matter their actual contributions to the movie in question.

2017 SAG OUTSTANDING CAST NOMINATIONS
Who was excluded this year despite their fine work?

THE BIG SICK
Nominees (in billing order): Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar 

Who was left out? The first shared title card belonged to Bo Burham and Aidy Bryant, with the second shared card going to Kurt Braunohler and Vella Lovell. Burnham, Braunohler and Bryant played Nanjiani's inner circle of comedian friends. Lovell was fantastic as a would-be arranged bride for Nanjiani but anyone who has seen her on Crazy Ex Girlfriend knows that she is skillful with mixing sharp comedy with dramatic undertow.

Erika Alexander, LilRel Howery, Betty Gabriel, and Marcus Henderson in "Get Out"

GET OUT
Nominees (in billing order): Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield, "and" Catherine Keener.

Who was left out? LilRel Howery and Erika Alexander, so hilarious together in the sidebar scenes involving the lead's best worried friend and a disbelieving police detective, are together on the first shared title card. Still more egregiously missing from the list are two of the key players at the home where the bulk of Get Out's action takes place. Betty Gabriel, who we are sometimes prone to argue gives the best performance in this instant classic,  shares the second title card with the frequently jogging Marcus Henderson, both of them are mysteriously "off" and subservient, much to the confusion of Daniel Kaluuya as the visiting guest. Richard Herd, who plays the grandfather to Allison Williams' family in flashback scenes, is also on that last shared card.

John Karna, Jake McDorman, Laura Marano, Bayne Gibby all co-star in "Lady Bird"

LADYBIRD
Nominees (in billing order): Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott.

Who was left out? Jake McDorman and John Karna have the first shared title card and Bayne Gibby and Laura Marano the second. Lady Bird's single title cards are extensive (11 actors!) so almost all the key characters with ample dialogue are represented in their nomination. There are a ton of minor characters so none of the exclusions are particularly upsetting but for the principle of the thing. For what it's worth McDorman plays the kind/hot teacher that Lady Bird's best friend (played by Beanie Feldstein) has a crush on, while John Karna plays the lead of the in-movie high school production of "Merrily We Roll Along," that [sorry that's a spoiler] has a crush on.

Lucy Faust as desperate Vera Atwood in "Mudbound"

MUDBOUND
Nominees (in billing order): Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell, Mary J Blige, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Banks, "and" Garrett Hedlund.

Who was left out? Dylan Arnold and Kerry Cahill have the only shared title card and the only cast card that isn't from one of the two key families (The McCallans and the Jacksons) that the film revolves around. They play Carl Atwood and Rose Trickleback respectively. Because Mudbound is a well-populated picture there are a lot of other cast members in small parts not included in the nomination here most noticeably the child actors from both of the key families and Lucy Faust as Vera Atwood the desperate wife who so unnerves Carey Mulligan's Laura.

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
Nominees (in billing order): Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Zeljko Ivanek, Caleb Landry Jones, Clarke Peters, Samara Weaving, "with" John Hawkes "and" Peter Dinklage

Who was left out? With Three Billboards having 11 single title cards most of the key cast members are included. But not all. Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Kathryn Newton, and Brendan Sexton III are the actors sharing a title card in this film. Britt-Gibson plays "Jerome" who helps Frances with the billboards after his own mistreatment by police. Newton is the murdered daughter (in flashbacks). Sexton doesn't get a character name but he plays a suspect who exudes evil. Two cast member not included in the cards, but just on the credit scroll who make impressions are Sandy Martin as Sam Rockwell's racist hateful mother and Amanda Warren as Mildred's friend Denise who the police target to get back at Mildred.

But if you're wondering about ensembles that missed the nomination entirely, well it was a crowded year. Something had to be the surprise omission. The movies that were expected to be competitive that were overlooked here are The Post and The Shape of Water. Though some would argue Dunkirk also had a clear shot.

A BIT OF HISTORY ABOUT OUR OUTRAGE IN THIS MATTER. 
We first noticed the problem in 2004. For a handful of years we were the only website to complain about it but now the outrage is fairly widespread and if we had a hand in that and it eventually leads to change, we will be quite pleased. Our investigation began with The Aviator. Why was Gwen Stefani, who had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as Jean Harlow in The Aviator, suddenly a SAG nominee whilst Matt Ross, who has since become a director (hi Captain Fantastic) was left out of the honor despite having a huge role by Leonardo DiCaprio's side which he totally aced? The problem, as we discovered, was their respective level of stardom at the time. Ever since we've tried to advocate for the Screen Actors Guild to change their rules for Ensemble awards. In order to be included in a film's official ensemble you have to have a single title card. Those are usually reserved for people who are the most famous or have the best agents who can finagle such a deal for them. For films where the principal cast is listed together (not common but the norm in, say, Woody Allen films) the only actors who are eligible for inclusion in the SAG Ensemble honors are the ones on the first shared card. This secondary rule led to the horrific exclusion of Corey Stoll in 2011. He was not yet famous when he gave the best performance in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, but he was excluded from that film's Ensemble nomination even though he surely helped them get nominated in the first place since people just loved his work. Most of Woody Allen's films have just one actor card but the cast was big enough that time that they were split into two cards with the less famous players on the second one.

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Reader Comments (35)

I was already prepared to feel bad for Betty Gabriel but yikes, Lil Rel Howery all those great names missing from The Big Sick! It's ridiculous when a reward meant to recognize ensemble acting cuts itself off so arbitrarily. Keep fighting the good fight.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNick T

I always appreciate your roundup here and agree that Gabriel is this year’s gasp-worthy omission—it is not a good look that a movie about the horrors of racism honored all of its key white actors but not all of its fantastic (and crucial) black actors!

All told, I’m happy with the list of nominees. It’s an eclectic mix of big and small movies from a variety of genres with diverse casts. It says a lot when Mudbound can feel in some ways like the most “typical” film because it’s a historical drama—except in this case it’s a nuanced portrait of race and class in America told from multiple perspectives directed by one of best emerging directors who happens to be a black woman—and hence not typical at all.

Female-led coming of age movies and interracial romantic comedies are rare honorees and both so well deserved in Big Sick and Ladybird. Add in a horror-documentary (according to Peele) and a period fantasy and you have me tickled pink. Awards should honor the beautiful array of films that come out every year. Call me a biased grump but not seeing The Post, Dunkirk, or the Darkest Hour (even though, yes, I haven’t seen 2/3) warms my heart because they would have been far more “expected” and boring choices (and undeserving in the case of Dunkirk). Sooo happy about SAG.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Leaving 4 key black actors are out the ensemble for Get Out , but including most of the white people seems... wrong .

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCris

I love that you guys still champion this because I never paid attention to it until I came across your blog. The ones for Get Out surprise me the most this year.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

The Get Out one is the most fucked up because you've got the two actors that add to the most amount of creepiness this movie could have to be considered horror (Gabriel and Henderson) and the other two providing the biggest comedic effect (Alexander and Howery) and among those four, two of them that are considered by many, the MVPs of the movie (Gabriel and Howery).

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

What are the exceptions? Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush shared a single card for The King's Speech followed by the remaining cast individually but the nomination was for:

Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom, Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Guy Pearce, Geoffrey Rush and Timothy Spall

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

The Howery/Gabriel snubs are especially sad. All the more reason to vote Lady Bird!

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

AJ -There are exceptions (the woody allen rule probably explains the colin firth/geoffrey rush thing since it's the very first card) and i believe films can petition SAG about this... so we'll see if when SAG updates its page the lists are any different than what i've indicated here but in years past they haven't been.

December 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

BREAKING: yes. these names are correct. SAG has updated their site with cast lists (same as above)

December 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The easy fix is that all actors that appear on a title card (including a shared one) gets a nomination. If your part is not large enough you usually only get a scroll credit and no title card.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Rami -- yep. There would still be intermittent weird cases of exclusions but not the way it is now where there are annual multiple gasp inducing problems.

December 13, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Will SAG need its own #OscarsSoWhite controversy to prompt an obviously necessary rule change?

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Wouldn't it be so much easier for SAG to make the nominations, and then allow the nominated films to submit their own list of who they deem to be in the ensemble (with a reasonable cut-off in terms of the amount of names, obviously). Doesn't have to be complicated at all, and I bet we would have seen Betty Gabriel and LilRey (for example) nominated.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

Betty Gabriel was amazing in GET OUT. Sad, SAG.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik

Not that I think that racism had anything to do with SAG's decision, but it assuredly is not a good look omitting four actors of color in Get Out, the lot of which arguably gave the most memorable performances in the film. I highly doubt moviegoers left the theaters talking about Bradley Whitford and Stephen Root.

I like The Jack's idea of letting the producers of the films up for consideration decide for themselves because that's a very, easy practical fix.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Agreed that the producers should be able to submit, but then again they are probably trying to prevent famous cameos from sneaking in to the nominees.

At the end of the day it is the producers of Get Out that chose to not give these actors a place card of their own so I think it is more on them than SAG

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNic

Vella Lovell was sublime in her small turn in The Big Sick. I still think about her “Do you ever want to be in a relationship so you can finally relax” scene. What a pity it’s not recognized by SAG, or elsewhere.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Poor Vella Lovell. She put more pathos in a lift of a finger than whatever Zoe Kazan was doing in The Big Sick. And who couldn't love, "I watched The X Files....Like, 3 whole episodes....it's a bad show."

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

There is an angering level of irony in the majority of the terrific black cast getting shut out of this recognition (including its sole black woman) while all the evil characters played by white people got notices.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

The problem is that the title card rule is arbitrary nonsense which, in the grand scheme of thing, is not wholly representative of the contributions of the performers. And maybe, just maybe, the filmmakers aren't thinking of SAG consideration when they make title card decisions. If you're a voter who's screened the movie, then it should be obvious who's a essential member of the ensemble and who's not because YOU JUST WATCHED THE MOVIE. Did SAG really need the opening credits to tell them that, for instance, Betty Gabriel is a crucial element of Get Out? Like, seriously...

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Troy -- it's not a conscious decision so i hope no one thinks i'm saying its racist of SAG. I may have to clarify that in future articles. SAG is not making the determination about who is and who isn't out -- BUT they are still to blame because they dont look into the rules of these things. who gets title cards and stuch is all contractual so it happens at least a year before SAG is ever involved with contract stages with the agents and producers and all that. The problem as i see it as that SAG isn't stepping in to make things more fair for actors during the awards process when their status and fame level (which usually determines these contracts made before a frame is even shot) has thwarted their recognition.

Nic -- except famous stars in cameos already get single card ;) It's so based on fame. I wish SAG would think about protecting none famous actors in this regarded. Obviously doing great work in a movie (like LilRel Howery and Betty Gabriel did this time in Get Out) can do wonders for your career and move you up to the next fame level (where hopefully you'll get your own title card on your next movie but it's crazy that the awards doesnt have a way to fix that when a movie is honored

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oh, I'm definitely not saying that racism, either blatant or implied, accounts for those ensemble exclusions in Get Out, just that it looks dubious.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Thanks for including Bayne Gibby from Lady Bird! She had a great guest spot on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this season too, so I am really sad to hear she's not nominated for her memorable moment in the movie.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

I see your point Nat. But what do you propose they do so that it is fairer? How could they do things? Where should they draw the line?

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I don't like these decisions of who gets to be nominated as part of the ensemble and who doesn't. That is a bunch of bullshit.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Adding my voice to the Vella Lovell chorus--wasn't familiar with her as a performer before The Big Sick, but the dimension she brings to her relatively minor role totally elevates the film. Seems like this is what an ensemble award ought to be about!

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian S-G

People keep referring to this year as a weak best actor year, but I love how atypical this lineup could be with the type of roles (and ages) for Chamalet, Kaluuya and Franco, as well as the genre of their films. BUT three of Oscar's all-time favorite men are right there for the taking to wipe all three of the young guys from the race. Hoping that doesn't happen.

December 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The problem is that a movie like get out likely isn't paying attention to title cards for awards because it's not a typical award type movie and if I'm being honest/selfish, I really don't want to have to deal with a bunch of title cards at the beginning just to make sure that the proper actors get their rewards. Fix that rule, it's an easy fix.

December 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterZo

As it’s SAG I would love if they can reward a best limited role category so a performance like Lovell’s or Gabriel’s can be acknowledged. The rule would be if you don’t qualify for ensemble under the current rules then you are eligible for this award.

December 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Marcos -- i would say that they should just include everyone who is on a title card, single or shared. (it usually only adds 2-6 names to the roster). That would account for nearly all the egregious omissions in years past. You'd still have situations where someone adding a little flair or color to a few scenes would not be included (like the women i namechecked from Three Billboards) but you would avoid most future situations like Betty Gabriel this year or Corey Stoll in Midnight in Paris in his year.

December 14, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Judi Dench? Really?!

December 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commentergabriel

Betty Gabriel's "Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no" in Get Out is already iconic. It's a great supporting role and she did it proud.

December 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRob

It's an easy fix. Has been for years. Just like WallE and Dark Knight supposedly helped withe the5-10 BP rule, the GwenStefani thibg should've helped solve this problem 13(!!!) years ago.

I wonder what would have happened if Betty Gabriel had picked up steam during the race like a lot of people wanted (which made no sense in my opinion), and she ended up as a Supporting Actress nominee...but not included in Best Cast nomination. Similar situation as Corey Stoll.

December 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBD

BD I think when a situation like that arises (someone gets a nod in supporting but gets omitted from ensemble) is when we will see a massive cry for a rule change.

December 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Forgot to add that this whole thing is very ridiculous when you consider that this is the show that has brought to the stage 247 actors from Orange is the New Black, 123 from Downton Abbey and nominates 195 from Game of Thrones in a single year. And now the big cast of GLOW.

Will adding 4-6 more actors to the film ensemble nominees really be that bad? Did the award for Gosford Park add to much debt to the trophy part of the budget that they prefer to leave this ridiculous rule? (But seriously, they've given out like 100 trophies to Orange alone).

December 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBD

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