By Richard Hack
It has taken 91 years for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to get around to addressing inclusion as part of its rules and regulations, but last week an historic shake-up dramatically altered the eligibility requirements for the Best Picture Oscar® Award.
Five years ago, when the Academy announced an all-white slate of male and female best acting nominees, the #AllWhite Oscars movement was born. And while it took another half-decade to see that tree grow, it finally blossomed last week as AMPAS took its first concrete action to attempt to regulate the systemic inequalities in its assortment of films, writers, and producers.
Last June, the Academy established its first Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity, led by Academy COO Christine Simmons. That was followed this past Tuesday with new standards–two of which must be met on-screen or off–to qualify for the Best Picture Oscar® beginning in 2024.
The on-screen standard requires a film submitted for best picture to have at least one lead actor or significant supporting actors from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, or at least 30% of all actors in secondary and minor roles from underrepresented groups (including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people and those with cognitive or physical disabilities). Or have a main storyline, theme or narrative centered on an underrepresented group. A lot of options to be sure, but at least now they are in writing.
Then there are the set of off-screen requirements which offer a Chinese menu of choices from which to select: diversifying creative leadership and crew roles, or paid apprenticeship, internship and skill development to underrepresented groups or including multiple in-house senior executives from underrepresented groups in the film’s marketing, publicity and distribution teams.
Including two from either category is obviously not a difficult task to accomplish, it’s true; but at least it’s a start.
And the Oscar® goes to diversity.