After years of repeated #OscarsSoWhite backlash, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is finally taking steps to amplify inclusion and representation among the films it recognizes. The changes include a new set of diversity requirements for releases hoping to be considered for the esteemed Best Picture Award. Below, we break down the multifaceted new rules.
Starting in 2022 and continuing in 2023, films must submit a confidential "academy inclusion standard form" to be considered for Best Picture.
The films don't need to meet any specific thresholds just yet, but they'll have to submit the form, likely to disclose how inclusive the production is. The details of the form remain unclear at this moment, but it's "a baby step, if you will, to get the industry thinking more about inclusion," The New York Times explained.
The upcoming Oscars race in 2021 will not adhere to these rules.
Starting in 2024, films must meet a benchmark of inclusion standards to be considered for Best Picture.
The required criteria can apply to a wide range of facets in a film production, from the actors and crew to the content of the narrative, all the way to the opportunities created by the distribution or financing departments.
To be eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, a film must meet two of the following four standards.
On-screen representation, themes, and narratives:
At least one of the lead actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group: Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or other.
Or, at least 30 percent of the ensemble cast and secondary roles are from at least two underrepresented groups, which include women, the aforementioned underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, LGBTQ+, or people with cognitive or physical disabilities.
Or, the film's story centers on a theme or narrative from one of the above underrepresented groups.
Creative leadership and team:
At least two creative leadership positions and department heads (i.e., director, cinematographer, casting director, editor, producer, makeup artist, and more) must be from an underrepresented group. And at least one of those positions should go to an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
Or, at least six other crew positions—such as first AD, script supervisor, but excluding production assistants—are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
Or, at least 30 percent of the film's whole crew is from underrepresented groups.
Industry access and opportunities: The film's distribution or finance company must offer paid internships/apprenticeships and training opportunities to underrepresented groups.
Audience development: The studio or film company has multiple senior executives from underrepresented groups on its marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
Read the list of standards in full here.
Categories that aren't Best Picture, such as Animated Feature Film or Documentary Feature, won't have to meet these new requirements and will adhere to their current eligibility criteria.
The changes are part of the Academy's larger diversity and inclusion initiative.
The campaign Academy Aperture 2025 aims for more equitable work opportunities and representation on- and off-screen across the film industry. Earlier this year, the Academy invited more than 800 new members in an effort to become more diverse. Of the new additions—who include Zendaya, Constance Wu, and Eva Longoria—36 percent are people of color and 45 percent are women.
The news of the Best Picture criteria elicited a wide range of reactions: some praising the new standards, some brushing off the changes as not going far enough, and others decrying that the rules have gone too far.
"The question here is about expanding the aperture for excellence," Academy board of governors member DeVon Franklin told The Hollywood Reporter. "This is not about restricting creativity; if anything, this is about enhancing it. And so when you look at the standards, we put a lot of time and effort and feedback and communication into making sure that there was flexibility. And, to your point about it not going far enough, that criticism—we understand it. It's not perfect. But we didn't want perfection to get in the way of progress, and we do feel like this is progress."
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