Oscars Set New Inclusion and Diversity Standards for Best Picture Eligibility

The standards are designed to nudge the industry in the direction of increased representation throughout all stages of film production, by using the lure of the movies’ most coveted prize

Films hoping to compete for Oscars in the Best Picture category will in the future need to meet a series of standards for representation and inclusion, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Tuesday.

The Academy’s new standards, a rare instance in which Oscars eligibility is dependent upon factors apart from how long a movie is or how it is distributed, include the use of actors from underrepresented racial or ethic groups; storylines centering on underrepresented groups; creative leadership and key crew positions occupied by women or members of racial or ethic groups, the LGBTQ+ community or those with cognitive or physical disabilities; paid apprenticeship, internship or training opportunities for underrepresented groups; and diversity in marketing, publicity and distribution.

To qualify for Best Picture, a film will need to meet the standards in two of four different areas: On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives; Creative Leadership and Project Team; Industry Access; and Opportunities and Audience Development.

The standards, which an Academy release said were designed “to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience,” were put together by an Academy committee headed by AMPAS governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos, and were based on similar standards used by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for some of its awards categories, and by the British Film Institute for certain funding eligibility.

These rules are not the first time that the Academy has used outside factors to determine Oscar eligibility: In the 1950s, for example, it disqualified anyone who had been a member of the Communist party or who had refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, a decision it quickly came to regret and rescind. And in the Best International Feature Film category, it requires a certain amount of a film’s creative team to come from the submitting country.

The new standards are being phased in gradually. Beginning with the 94th Academy Awards, which will take place in 2022, all films wishing to compete for Best Picture will be required to submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form – but films will not be required to meet the inclusion thresholds until the 96th Oscars, which will take place in 2024.

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

The standards are written in such a way that most films will not have to transform their creative or marketing process. A film can qualify under Standard A, for instance, by simply having one lead or significant supporting actor from an underrepresented group. But they are designed to nudge the industry in the direction of increased representation throughout all stages of film production, by using the lure of eligibility for the movie business’ most coveted prize.

All categories apart from Best Picture will retain their current eligibility requirements, which do not make reference to the racial or ethnic composition of the cast, crew or production or distribution company. The Academy added that it will separately address the status of films that are submitted in the animated feature, documentary feature and international feature film categories but also submitted for Best Picture consideration.

The new standards are part of the Academy Aperture 2025 program, which AMPAS calls “The Academy’s equity and inclusion initiative furthering the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.”

From the AMPAS press release:

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

STANDARD A: ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors
At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting 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
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast
At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter
The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads
At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads–Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer–are from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following 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
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles
At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition
At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD C: INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities
The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing
The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew)
The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution
The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
• Women
• 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
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing