In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy – as all 20 acting nominees are white for the second year in a row – on Friday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a plan that they”re calling “historic action to increase diversity.”
In a meeting on Thursday night, the Academy”s Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve a set of changes designed to make its members a more diverse group and to limit the voting rights of its members. “The Board”s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020,” an Academy press release announced.
For decades, the way to join the Academy has been to be sponsored by two current members. A member can only sponsor one person for membership each year. Or, you can get a shot at membership by getting nominated for an Oscar (nominees get automatic consideration for membership and don”t require sponsors). Final approval for membership and the invitation to join comes from the Board of Governors. (You can see the full rules/process on becoming a member on the Academy website.)
Now, according to Friday”s announcement, “The Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.”
Also, instead of granting each member lifetime voting rights, the voting status of each member – new ones, and current ones, with these rules applied retroactively to them – will last 10 years and will be renewed if that member has been active in filmmaking during that decade. Members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms or if they have won or been nominated for an Oscar.
The changes will take effect in time for next year”s Oscars but will not impact voting for the 2016 Academy Awards.
The membership of the Academy has long been shrouded in secrecy – the Academy doesn”t publicize its full roster of members, and only since 2004 has the organization made public the names of its invitees, though it doesn”t reveal which of those accept and become members. A 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation (an investigation which, full disclosure, yours truly worked on) revealed that Academy members are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, with a median age of 62. Of the 119 people invited to become members of the acting and directing branches in 2013, 2014, and 2015, 33% are non-white recruits.
So, many of the folks who vote on Oscars are white men with graying hair, but this Academy plan endeavors to change that.