October 13, 2019

Motion picture academy implements historic changes to increase diversity

After public furor over the second consecutive year of all-white Oscar acting nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to endorse new procedures for increasing diversity at the Oscars and within the academy itself.

The changes will affect the academy's voting requirements, its membership structure and governing bodies, with the goal of doubling the number of women and minority members by 2020. 

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” the academy's president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement. 

The series of changes were approved Jan. 21 at a special meeting of the academy's 51-member governing board, according to the New York Times.

The most significant change implemented is related to the group's voting procedures and will most likely affect older academy members who are no longer working. Beginning next year, voting status will be granted only to those members who have made at least one movie in the last 10 years. Any member who has not made a film in a decade will become an “emeritus” member who does not pay dues and is allowed “all the privileges of membership, except voting.”

The academy is also promising to launch “an ambitious, global campaign” to recruit more diverse members and will immediately add three new seats to its Board of Governors that will be nominated by Boone Isaacs and confirmed by the board. Efforts to increase diversity within the academy's executive and board committees will also be made, according to a statement. 

Earlier this week, film director Spike Lee told “Good Morning America” he and his wife would not attend this year's Oscars, though he refrained from calling it a 'boycott.'

Lee was joined by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, who also publicly declined to watch or attend this year. “We must stand in our power,” she tweeted. 

George Clooney joined in the chorus, telling Variety he believes “African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true.” 

“[W]e’re moving in the wrong direction,” Clooney said, citing four films that could have been nominated this year but were not, including: “Creed,” “Concussion,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton.”

“And certainly last year, with 'Selma' director Ava DuVernay — I think that it’s just ridiculous not to nominate her.”

Academy president Boone Isaacs, a woman of color, deserves credit for taking steps to recalibrate the system. On Jan. 18, she released a statement saying she was “heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” declaring: “It's time for big changes.”