Early as it seems to you and me to be thinking about this stuff, the gears have already started grinding for the 2012 Screen Actors' Guild Awards. The panel of 2,100 members voting for this year's nominees has already been randomly selected from the Guild's vast membership, while yesterday, the submissions process was opened -- actors and their representatives hoping to compete for the awards this year have until October 25 to enter their names for consideration in the category of their choosing.

Yes, unlike at the Oscars, actors get to determine whether they compete in the leading or supporting race at the SAGs -- which has resulted in several mismatches with the Oscar list over the years. Most recently, Kate Winslet won a supporting SAG and a leading Oscar for "The Reader"; a few years before, Benicio Del Toro won both awards, with the categorizations flipped, for "Traffic."

One difference in the process this year is SAG's decision to accept online submissions only, a policy intended to "reflect [their] continuing commitment to environmentally sound practices." It's a small change, and paper voting will still be permitted at the nomination stage, as well as in the final vote. Still, following the Academy's announcement earlier this year to implement an online voting option for the upcoming Oscars, it's clear that the entire awards season is slowly stepping into the digital age. The key change, of course, will come when online streaming is permitted as a way of distributing films to voters for consideration.

The edited press release from SAG: 

Submissions of performances for consideration for the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards® nominations are now open online at sagawards.org/submissions, it was announced today by SAG Awards® Committee Chair JoBeth Williams. For the first time, submissions will be accepted online only. Submissions will close on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 5 p.m. (PST).

“Implementing an online submissions only policy this year reflects SAG Awards continuing commitment to environmentally sound practices,” Williams explains. The SAG Awards was honored in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with the Environmental Media Association (EMA)’s Green Seal, recognizing a production’s outstanding efforts to implement sustainable initiatives and promote environmental awareness. Online submissions for Actor® nominations have been available since the 9th SAG Awards. Actors and their representatives were advised this time last year that an online submissions only policy would be implemented as of the 19th Annual SAG Awards and were encouraged to try the online procedure if they had not previously done so.

The Screen Actors Guild Award—The Actor®—is presented by SAG-AFTRA for outstanding performances in motion pictures and primetime television. Actors may submit their own performances from 2012 for consideration in categories of the actor’s choosing. With the actor’s permission, producers, studios/networks, agents, managers, or publicists may also submit performances for consideration in the category designated by the actor. Nominations for the 19th Annual SAG Awards will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

Of the top industry honors presented to performers, only the SAG Awards are selected entirely by actors’ union peers The nominees for performances in 2012, including the distinctive ensemble awards and stunt ensemble honors, will be chosen by two separate film and television nominating panels, each comprised of 2,100 members from across the United States, who were randomly selected this spring. Nomination ballots will be mailed on Wednesday, Nov. 21 and voting closes on Monday, Dec. 10.

After nominations are announced, final SAG Awards voting instructions will be mailed on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 to all active members of SAG-AFTRA. Online voting is encouraged. Final voting paper ballots are available only upon request between Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 and Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Online votes must be cast or previously-requested paper ballots returned by Friday, Jan. 25 to the SAG Awards election firm, where results will be sealed until they are opened onstage at the 19h Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. The ceremony will be simulcast live from the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT, 6 p.m. MT and 5 p.m. PT.

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter. 

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