The Oscars Will Add a Diversity Requirement for Eligibility

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Academy Awards, announced Friday a handful of efforts to improve inclusion both within its organization and for the Oscars themselves.

For the annual telecast, which next year may be in flux because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the academy will create a task force to develop new inclusion standards for Oscar eligibility by the end of July. The academy has not yet determined what those standards will be, and films submitted this year will not be affected. The organization also announced that the best picture category will be set at 10 films rather than the fluctuating number of nominations that has been in effect since the 2010 Oscars.

Internally, the organization’s Board of Governors amended its bylaws to limit the number of terms each governor may serve on the board to a maximum of 12. Previously, there was no limit.

It’s unclear what the diversity requirements will entail but the academy could take a page from its brethren in Britain: In 2019, the British Film Institute became the first major awards body to introduce diversity and inclusion criteria into its eligibility requirements. All entries in two British film categories, outstanding British film and outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer, are now required to increase representation to meet at least two of four diversity standards, like “onscreen representation, themes and narratives,” and “industry access and opportunities.” among others.

“The need to address this issue is urgent,” the academy’s chief executive, Dawn Hudson, said in a statement. “To that end, we will amend — and continue to examine — our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.”

These efforts, which are part of the initiative titled “Academy Aperture 2025,” will also include a series of panels titled “Academy Dialogue: It Starts with Us” for members and the public on race, ethnicity and history. A forthcoming conversation led by Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the board of governors, will center on the impact of racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood films.

The inclusion effort will expand to the academy’s Los Angeles museum and its collections and programs. The museum, a $388 million project that has been hampered by cost overruns and fund-raising challenges, is set to open in December, though that too may be delayed because of the pandemic shut down.

The academy’s membership came under intense scrutiny in 2016, the second year in a row that the organization did not nominate any actors of color for Oscars and overlooked films that focused on black characters for best-picture nominations. Humiliated by the resulting #OscarsSoWhite outrage, academy leaders vowed to double the number of people of color and women members by 2020.

In 2015, 8 percent were people of color, and 25 percent were women. As of last year, people of color made up 16 percent of the membership, according to the academy, and women made up 32 percent.

On Wednesday, the academy announced its new board of governors, adding the director Ava DuVernay to its ranks in addition to the 2020 Oscars producer Lynette Howell Taylor, increasing the number of female Academy governors to 26 out of 54, and people of color to 12.

Membership is expected to expand again next month when the academy announces its new class.

So far, the academy has stuck to its Feb. 28 2021, for the ceremony. The organization has been discussing whether a postponement will be needed because of complications from the shutdown.

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