|Cherly Boone Isaacs|
It hasn't been the best week for The Academy Awards. In light of last week's nominations, this week was met with almost a daily and noteworthy new voice speaking about the Oscars So White movement. Over the past week, people with good intentions (Will Packer) and bad (Charlotte Rampling) have come forward in a move that, if nothing else, shows that maybe The Academy needs to work a little harder on diversity. In a press release yesterday, President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has officially announced a motive to improve upon this starting during the next eligible Oscar season. By 2020, she wants the representation of the members to be just as accurate as the society by which these artists entertain.
Nobody is refuting that The Academy has a flawed system. To a large extent, it faces trouble on every level. There's the typical snubs that come with every year, but also the improperly nominated lead and supporting acting categories. It's a system that is always in search of improving itself, and that is noble. But why is this recent news a big deal? Well, I believe that even if the best movies don't win at the Oscars, the award itself is indicative of society in that year. I believe that there's something more reputable about this award that isn't visible at The Golden Globes, or even the BAFTAS. That is likely why people care more here than anywhere else about diversity and for that, I totally encourage improvement.
For those who are in the know, the press release isn't technically new. During the Honorary Oscars last year, Isaacs claimed that she was working on an initiative to very well improve the situation we're currently discussing. Beyond that brief outline, this is the first public release of news that gives us a clue into how at least things will be shaping up come this time next year. The following is a condensed rundown of the big points (read in full here).
1. Membership: Those currently involved with The Academy will face a variety of changes. For instance, a member has to be active in the industry in the past 10 years to qualify. Otherwise, they become "Emertius" status (you get the perks of being a member, but you don't vote). This excludes people who have worked for "three 10-year terms" along with Oscar nominees and winners - at which point either gets lifetime voting opportunities.
2. New Leaders: In order to combat diversity, three new members will be added to the Board of Governors, nominated by the president, for three year terms.
3. Diversity: There will be new measures applied on an "ambitious" global campaign to find new members who represent diversity, which will take the place of the current model of having current members sponsor potential newcomers. There will also be new members added to the executive and board committees with intent on nurturing future leaders.
It may not seem like a lot, but it is a start. Right now, The Academy's membership features 6,261 members. It is estimated that approximately 1,400 members are either nonwhite or female. Considering that this has been a long standing problem, it does make sense why one would take initiatives to fix this, even though it felt like it could've been done back when a damning report was published a few years back noting the older white guy problem. This is only the beginning of what should be a fulfilling change. With the promise to have more diverse members by 2020 (four years), the numbers would have to likely double just to even achieve half. Still, it will make voting more interesting and hopefully the results more compelling (I am still shocked to see Mad Max: Fury Road in the Best Picture field, so something's working). I encourage this change, though hopefully there will be more coming this summer when additional rule changes are expected to be made.