Gotham Awards Introduce Gender Neutral Awards Categories

After years of debate regarding acting categories at awards shows, the Gotham Awards are the first domino to fall. This year The Gotham Film & Media Institute introduced a sweeping change to replace their Best Actor and Actress categories with awards for Outstanding Lead and Supporting Performances.

According to the institute’s press release, performances will no longer to be defined by gender.

Additionally, The Gotham Awards show have been a hallmark of acknowledging independent film and making the first splash of awards season. Other awards organizations may follow suit.

While the news of this change is sudden, the modification comes into effect this year. The nominations for the new award categories come out on October 21, 2021. The Gotham Awards are on November 29, 2021.

Here’s the press release in its entirety:

New York, NY (August 5, 2021) – The Gotham Film & Media Institute announced today that, beginning this year, their Gotham Awards for acting will no longer be defined by gender. The Best Actor and Best Actress categories for independent feature films will be replaced with Outstanding Lead Performance and Outstanding Supporting Performance. 

The move to introduce gender neutral lead and supporting acting awards builds on the legacy of the now 24-year-old Gotham Breakthrough Actor Award (to be renamed “Gotham Breakthrough Performer Award” as of this year) which has been gender neutral since its inception, and has previously been awarded to performers including Amy Adams, Elliot Page, Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Anya Taylor-Joy.

Jeffrey Sharp, Executive Director of The Gotham Film & Media Institute, stated: “The Gotham Awards have a thirty year history of celebrating diverse voices in independent storytelling. We are proud to recognize outstanding acting achievements each year, and look forward to a new model of honoring performances without binary divisions of gender. We are grateful to those who helped to start this conversation in recent years and we are thrilled that the Gotham Awards will continue to support artistic excellence in a more inclusive and equitable way.”

Additional category updates for 2021 include the creation of a Breakthrough Nonfiction Series award (previously included with fiction series) and the eligibility of international documentaries in the Best Documentary Feature category. The Gotham Awards will also be adding the first acting category within its Breakthrough Series categories with Outstanding Performance in a New Series. There will be up to ten nominees in each of the three new categories including Outstanding Lead Performance, Outstanding Supporting Performance and Outstanding Performance in a New Series.

In addition to these new or updated awards, the remaining categories include Best Feature, Best International Feature, Best Screenplay and the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for feature films; the series awards include Breakthrough Series (under 40 minutes) and Breakthrough Series (over 40 minutes). There will be five nominees in each of the legacy categories.

As the first major awards ceremony of the fall season, the Gotham Awards provide critical early recognition and media attention to worthy independent films and series and their writers, directors, producers, and actors with twelve competitive awards categories. The awards are also unique for their ability to assist in catapulting award recipients prominently into national awards season attention.

The Gotham Awards named Nomadland as Best Feature in 2020, which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Previous acting winners include Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Awkwafina (The Farewell), and Nicole Beharie (Miss Juneteenth), with Ahmed and Driver both receiving Oscar nominations. In 2019, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story won the Gotham Award for Best Feature on its way to a Best Picture nomination later that season.

In addition to the competitive categories, the Gotham Awards also recognize significant achievement through career Tributes. The 2021 Tributes will be announced in the coming weeks.

Submissions for the 2021 Gotham Awards will open on Friday, August 6. Detailed eligibility, criteria, and submission information is available at

The deadline for submissions for the 2021 Gotham Awards is Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

Nominations will be announced on Thursday, October 21, 2021, and the Gotham Awards Ceremony will take place on Monday, November 29, 2021 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

In order to follow more updates on film and television awards, follow Awards Radar for more.


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