In the week since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 2016 Oscars, a protest of the lack of diversity within this year’s nominees has spread throughout the entertainment industry and beyond. Some prominent filmmakers and actors have decided to boycott this year’s ceremony, while others have come out condemning the system in general.
One of those outspoken voices in favor for more diversity is Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who recently expressed her own “frustration about the lack of inclusion.” Now, Isaacs and the Academy’s Board of Governors have taken matters into their own hands by drastically changing the voting/membership requirements and rules for the AMPAS. About the new regulations’ true ability for change, Isaacs was confident in the unanimously approved plan: “The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
The Academy will open its membership doors to more women and minorities by supplementing “the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members” with an international search for fresh faces, while adding three new governor seats (appointed by the Academy president) to jumpstart the diversification process. Beyond casting the net wider for new members, current Academy members will have to continue to be active within the ever-changing industry to be able to vote:
Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.
Basically this means that lifetime voting rights are a bit harder to come by, so if you’re an aging Academy member you better get with the times, be more inclusive, and keep those cameras rolling! While these new rules won’t be put into place for next month’s ceremony, they hopefully indicate a changing tide in Hollywood to better represent the moviegoing public. Academy Award–nominated actress Viola Davis summed up the issue with the Academy’s diversity problem and the #OscarsSoWhite movement eloquently:
The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system. How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role?… You could probably line up all the A-list black actresses out there [and] they probably don’t make what one A-list white woman makes in one film. That’s the problem. You can change the Academy, but if there are no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?
The Academy’s new rules are a step in the right direction for more inclusion, but these promises will continue to be broken if the industry, as a whole, doesn’t change as well.