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Oscars Academy Introduces New Inclusion Initiatives, Expands Best Picture Category

The Board of Governors voted for the changes after nationwide protests over systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will launch a number of new initiatives designed to increase minority representation within the Academy and the movie business, it announced on Friday.

It also expanded the Best Picture category back to a flat 10 nominees rather than a variable number between five and 10, and took steps to help members view eligible films year-round, instead of just in the fall and winter awards season.

The vote to pass the new initiatives was made at a Thursday meeting of the Academy’s Board of Governors, which made the move in the wake of widespread protest over systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

After the #OscarsSoWhite movement of 2016, the Academy vowed to double the number of women and people of color in the organization by 2020, a goal it has achieved. “But to truly meet this moment, we must recognize how much more needs to be done, and we must listen, learn, embrace the challenge, and hold ourselves and our community accountable,” said Academy President David Rubin in a statement. “Academy leadership and our Board are committed to ensuring that we continue to weave equity and inclusion into the fabric of every Academy initiative, committee, program and event.”

The equity and inclusion steps will fall under the heading of “Academy Aperture 2025,” a phased initiative that outlines goals for Academy membership, governance and workplace culture.

It will include what AMPAS says will be “representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility.” Those standards, which have the potential to shake up the Oscar race, are yet to be determined but will be implemented by July 31, 2020. They will not affect films eligible for the 93rd Academy Awards, which will take place next year, but will be in place in time for the 94th Oscars in 2022.

As part of a push to expand the number and kind of films that are nominated for Best Picture, that category will return to the 10 nominees it had for the 2009 and 2010 awards. The category was changed to a variable number of nominees in 2011, which in practice resulted in either eight or nine nominees each year.

Films will also be made available on the Academy’s members-only Academy Screening Room on a quarterly basis, also beginning with the 94th Oscars. In the past, most contending films were posted to the password-protected site late in the year.

Other moves included requiring annual unconscious bias training for all Academy board members, branch executive committee members and Academy staff. All members will be given the opportunity to participate as well.

The governors also instituted new term limits for the board. Previously, members were allowed to serve three consecutive three-year terms, after which they would be required to leave the board for one year before returning; there was no lifetime limit on the number of years a governor could serve. Under the new rules, governors will be restricted to two consecutive three-year terms, and then must leave the board for two years before returning. No governor can serve more than 12 years on the board in total.

Additional programs in the service of inclusion and diversity are spelled out in the press release below.

The announcement did not include pushing the date back for the 73rd Oscars, which had been considered a strong possibility in light of the theater closings and release-date cancellations caused by the coronavirus.

Previously, the board had voted for a number of rule changes inspired by theater closings and release-date postponements because of the coronavirus pandemic. It loosened the eligibility requirements for the awards, allowing films that had to abandon scheduled theatrical releases to qualify even if they premiered on a streaming or video-on-demand platform. Other changes were made to documentary rules, where films can qualify this year by simply being selected for specific film festivals, regardless of whether those festivals actually take place.

The 2019-2010 Board of Governors will meet once more, at the end of June, to approve new members. The 2020-2021 board, which contains six new members and  one former governor returning after a hiatus, will meet for the first time later this summer.

The full text of the Academy press release:

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the next phase of its equity and inclusion initiative, Academy Aperture 2025. This phased initiative will further the Academy’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community. The first phase of the initiative outlines specific goals for the Oscars® and Academy governance, membership, and workplace culture.

“While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend–and continue to examine–our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.”

“Through the dedication, focus, and concerted effort of our Board of Governors and members on the branch executive committees, the Academy has surpassed the goals of our A2020 initiative. But to truly meet this moment, we must recognize how much more needs to be done, and we must listen, learn, embrace the challenge, and hold ourselves and our community accountable,” said Academy President David Rubin. “Academy leadership and our Board are committed to ensuring that we continue to weave equity and inclusion into the fabric of every Academy initiative, committee, program and event.”

The Academy will encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the film community. To ensure more diverse representation, and in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the Academy will create a task force of industry leaders, appointed by David Rubin and that will include governor and A2020 Committee chair DeVon Franklin, to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020. Eligibility for films in consideration for the 93rd Academy Awards® (2020) will not be impacted.

Beginning with the 94th Academy Awards (2021), the Best Picture category will be set at 10 nominees, rather than a fluctuating number of nominations from year to year. The Academy will also implement a quarterly viewing process through the Academy Screening Room, the streaming site for Academy members, also starting with the 94th Academy Awards. By making it possible for members to view films released year-round, the Academy will broaden each film’s exposure, level the playing field, and ensure all eligible films can be seen by voting members.

Governance and Membership
This past January, the current Board of Governors participated in unconscious bias training. Moving forward, this training will be mandatory for all Academy governors, branch executive committee members and Academy staff on an annual basis. All 9,000+ members will be offered an opportunity to participate in training as well.

Additionally, the Board of Governors passed a resolution to amend the Academy bylaws to enact maximum governor term limits. Once the amendment takes effect, governors will be allowed to serve on the board for up to two three-year terms (consecutive or non-consecutive), followed by a two-year hiatus, after which eligibility renews for up to two additional three-year terms, for a lifetime maximum of 12 years. The previous limit was three consecutive three-year terms, with a one-year hiatus, and no lifetime maximum.

These term limits affect newly elected governors starting with the 2020-2021 board term, as well as sitting governors returning for 2020-2021 in their first or second term. Those returning governors in their third term during 2020-2021 will be allowed to complete their nine-year service, before an obligatory two-year hiatus, after which eligibility renews for one additional and final three-year term, for a maximum of 12 years. For governors who have already served multiple terms exceeding 12 years, they will be limited to one additional term. Branch executive committees will also have a term limit of six years and a two-year hiatus, with a maximum of 12 years.

The Academy will host a series of panels called “Academy Dialogue: It Starts with Us” for members and the public, with conversations about race, ethnicity, history, opportunity, and the art of filmmaking. Programs will include a conversation hosted by Academy governor Whoopi Goldberg on the lasting impact of racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood films. The Academy will also present conversations on the systemic changes that need to occur in areas such as casting, screenwriting, producing, directing, financing and greenlighting of movies in order to afford opportunities to women and people of color and to help create a new narrative for recovery.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is committed to building an anti-racist, inclusive organization that will contextualize and challenge dominant narratives around cinema, and build authentic relationships with diverse communities. The Academy Museum will also create spaces that highlight and prioritize the experience of traditionally underrepresented or marginalized people while advancing the understanding, celebration, preservation, and accessibility of movies through its business practices, exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections.

The museum will work in active partnership with the recently expanded Inclusion Advisory Committee, comprising more than 20 filmmakers and executives, to help develop public programs, exhibitions, and collections that confront racism, champion the work of diverse artists, and expose historical omissions.

Workplace Culture

The Academy will establish an Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity to oversee the Aperture 2025 initiative and work with the Board of Governors, Academy staff and experts to ensure the implementation of best practices and accountability throughout the organization. The office will be led by Academy COO Christine Simmons, in partnership with Lorenza Muñoz, Managing Director, Member Relations and Awards, who will continue to oversee external-facing membership and awards initiatives and global outreach.

All Academy, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy Film Archive and Academy Museum staff will have access to newly created Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond.

Aperture 2025 is an ongoing initiative with multiple phases and programs to holistically address institutionalized inequity within the organization and the industry. The Academy will ensure inclusion in all areas by diversifying its suppliers, investment opportunities and collections. The organization’s efforts have already made a significant impact on the following initiatives and programs:

Academy Grants Program – The Academy’s FilmCraft and FilmWatch grants were established to identify and empower future filmmakers, cultivate new and diverse talent, promote motion pictures as an art form, and provide a platform or underrepresented artists. Earlier this year, the Academy donated an additional $2 million in funds to 96 organizations that support filmmakers and reach audiences from underserved communities.

Academy Gold – Academy Gold is an industry talent development, diversity and inclusion initiative, with a focus on underrepresented communities, to provide individuals access and resources to achieving their career pathways in filmmaking.

Action: The Academy Women’s Initiative – Action: The Academy Women’s Initiative includes member-focused global events designed to connect and empower women in the filmmaking community and enable them to share their stories and celebrate inclusion. The initiative also includes the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women, which funds an annual grant for female filmmakers beginning their careers.

Academy International Inclusion Initiative – The Academy International Inclusion Initiative aims to bring together a global community of artists by establishing long-term relationships with international film festivals and cultural exchange programs with established and emerging filmmaking communities.

Student Academy Awards – The Student Academy Awards, established in 1972, provide a platform for emerging global talent by creating opportunities within the industry to showcase their work.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting – The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is an international screenwriting competition established to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters. Winners are chosen through an extensive, professional script-reading process that also includes Academy-trained readers, with many from underrepresented communities.

The Academy continues efforts to increase representation within its membership. New members invited to join the organization will be announced next month.