The Academy Awards have made its strongest move yet toward creating a more diverse voting bloc.
According to new rules released yesterday, in order to be considered as a Best Picture nominee, producers will have to hire more LGBTQ+ people, women, folks of color, and those with disabilities, which define the Academy's list of "underrepresented groups."
The new shift is part of the Academy Aperture 2025 initiative, which is an effort to increase diversity in the film community.
While the Oscars are being sidelined this year due to the pandemic, the Academy is gearing up submission guidelines for the 94th and 95th awards show, which will broadcast in 2022 and 2023. As per the new guidelines, films that want to be considered for best picture will have to submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form. Then, beginning in 2024, a film submitting for the category will need to meet at least two of the four standards laid out by the Academy.
The Oscars have been criticized in recent years for not only shutting women out of the best director category (only three women have been nominated in its history) but also snubbing deserving actors of color in favor of white actors. The backlash became so loud that in 2016, then-Academy president Cheryl Boon Isaacs spoke out and demanded more diversity behind the scenes.
The four standards are as follows:
Standard A) On-screen representation, themes, and narratives. This includes having one of the leading actors be from an underrepresented group, OR at least 30 percent of the cast must be from at least two of the following groups: women, racial or ethnic, LGBTQ+ people, and those with disabilities, OR if the main storyline is centered on underrepresented groups.
Standard B) Creative leadership and project team. This includes having at least two people in creative leadership positions and departments heads who are from an underrepresented group, OR at least six crew/team and technical positions are from an underrepresented group, OR at least 30 percent of the film’s crew are composed of an underrepresented group.
Standard C) Industry access and opportunities. This includes the film’s distribution or financing company with paid apprenticeships or internships from underrepresented groups, OR if the film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from underrepresented groups.
Standard D) Audience development. This includes a studio and/or film company to have multiple in-house senior executives from underrepresented groups on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
But writer of stage and screen Jeremy O. Harris has criticized the announcement online.
"This is less watershed than it seems given the fact that the BAFTAS have essentially these same standards, but are revising them," he wrote going on to say that some productions have "cheated the system" by fulfilling standards C and D. As Harris pointed out, by hiring LGBTQ+ assistants or staffers in production, or having women in public relations and marketing (which is not uncommon) a production can meet requirements while not changing those who are in control.
"This is actual smoke and mirrors," he wrote. "Don't fall for it."
The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony is currently scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Last year Janelle Monae called out the lack of racial diversity in the ceremony's opening performance.