5 burning questions raised by the largest academy invitee class

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences added 683 new members Wednesday, more than doubling last year’s record number of invitees. The dramatic action spurred many questions. Here are the answers to five of them.

How does the academy notify invitees? I saw a bunch of people say that they found out on Twitter.

That was indeed the case with producer Mynette Louie and documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter.

The academy emailed the 683 prospective members prior to Wednesday’s announcement, using the contact information provided on the application. Sometimes that info isn’t a personal account, but an email address for an agent, manager or publicist. Sometimes people don’t check their email. Call it one of life’s better surprises.

Some of these invitees have pretty thin resumes. Don’t you need more credits to get into the academy?

Each of the academy’s 17 branches has specific requirements to become a member. Oscar nominees receive prime consideration, though they aren’t automatically admitted. (We still have no idea why “Babel” nominee Rinko Kikuchi hasn’t been invited to the party yet.)

Beyond the minimum requirements, most branches have a provision that allows them to invite anyone they damn well please. If they have “achieved unique distinction, earned special merit or made an outstanding contribution” in their field, in the opinion of the branch’s executive committee, they’re in.

Filmmaker Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know”) apparently wondered about this very thing, tweeting yesterday: “I read every single one of the bylaws before accepting, making sure there was no funny business in there. Legit.”

Eighteen people – Adam McKay, Rebecca Miller, Ryan Coogler, among them – were invited by two different branches. Can they join both? Are they allowed to choose?

Invitees must join one or the other. But they pick.

Does everyone invited accept? What if they’re not a joiner?

Joining is as easy as clicking the “I accept my invitation” button on the email the academy sends invitees. A great many did yesterday. But “a very small, small, small number of people don’t join,” says an academy spokesperson.

Sometimes, as in the case of Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, we find out they didn’t accept only after the academy invites them again. (We’re still not sure whether he has ever joined.) Other times, in the case of New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, the invitation is extended out of respect, but with little expectation of acceptance. (The academy gave Godard an honorary Oscar in 2010. He didn’t show and later said in an interview that the award meant “nothing” to him. So, no, probably not a member.)

Why are the invitee classes so small? Why can’t the academy just, in one fell swoop, invite 1,500 women and 520 people of color and meet their goal in a year?

What, 683 people aren’t enough for you? Academy leadership instructed its branches leadership committees to search far and wide for new members. Some branches  the directors and documentary groups  took the mission to heart, bumping up their rosters by nearly 20%.

But the academy has committed to doubling the number of women and people of color within its ranks over the course of four years. Are there that many qualified candidates? Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs believes so, telling The Times that this year’s “terrific” numbers will be repeated as academy branches continue to pay attention to “talent that is everywhere.”

Or as another academy member, who served on a branch membership committee this year, puts it (and asked for anonymity, given his relationship to the group): “Some people couldn’t wrap their heads around 683 new members. Their heads would explode if we admitted 2,000 at once.”

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

 

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