By R.T. Watson
Sept. 9, 2020
After years of facing criticism for lacking diversity among its Oscar nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided it will require films competing for best picture to meet criteria aimed at fostering a more inclusive Hollywood.
The criteria will come into effect starting with the 2024 Academy Awards.
Since the #OscarsSoWhite campaign of 2015 criticized Hollywood for gender and racial inequality, the Academy and movie studios alike have been implementing a series of initiatives meant to include more people from underrepresented groups. Hollywood has made some gains in recent years, but it has continued to draw criticism for predominantly employing and honoring white professionals.
In a statement Tuesday, the Academy issued an expansive list of standards, detailing the many ways films can qualify under the new regulations meant to spur increased inclusion both on and off screen. Films can qualify by meeting standards in at least two of four broad categories. Those include having at least one main actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; casting at least 30% of minor actors from underrepresented groups; telling a story that focuses on such groups.
While the acting and thematic standards will be the most apparent to audiences, the Academy will also allow best-picture submissions to qualify by meeting other off-screen criteria such as hiring or training certain personnel from underrepresented groups. Studios and film companies can also partly qualify by having multiple senior executives from underrepresented groups working in their marketing, distribution or publicity divisions.
The broad leeway in the way the standards are to be applied makes it difficult to assess how effective the Academy's plan will be. Under the new rules, a movie could still qualify without lead actors from underrepresented ethnic groups or a story line centered on an underrepresented group.
The Academy, which has been increasing the size of its membership in recent years by inviting new members from underrepresented groups, said in its statement Tuesday that influential members like Paramount Pictures Chairman Jim Gianopulos and producer DeVon Franklin had a hand creating the new standards.
Would-be best picture contenders in 2022 and 2023 will need to document the ways in which they meet, or don't meet, the new standards, according to the Academy, before the rules become mandatory the following year.
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