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Film academy is setting new inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility

Oscars statues backstage at the 92nd Academy Awards in February.
Oscars statues backstage at the 92nd Academy Awards earlier this year.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The motion picture academy on Friday announced a fresh set of measures aimed at boosting representation both within the group and across the film industry as a whole, including new inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility, marking the next chapter in the historically white-male-dominated organization’s ongoing campaign to remake itself inside and out.

Dubbed Academy Aperture 2025, the phased initiative is geared toward further increasing representation in the organization’s governance, membership and workplace culture, as well as in the films nominated for Oscars. The changes come as institutions across the country — including throughout the entertainment industry — grapple with their responses to the systemic racism laid bare by the death of George Floyd.

Among the new changes, the academy, in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America, will create a task force of industry leaders to develop new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by the end of July.

Eligibility for next year’s 93rd Academy Awards will not be affected. However, starting the following year, the best picture category will be permanently set at 10 nominees, as it had been from 2009 to 2011, rather than the recent fluctuating number of five to 10 nominations from year to year. The goal is to try to ensure that a more diverse array of films can compete for the Oscars’ top prize.

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The Cannes Film Festival won’t happen in 2020, but new films from Wes Anderson, Pixar, Steve McQueen and more will still receive a Cannes 2020 label.

The new initiatives, which were passed by the group’s 54-member board of governors in a Zoom meeting on Thursday, follow an earlier inclusion initiative that the academy launched in 2015 in the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. That effort, dubbed A2020, was aimed at doubling the number of women and people of color in the group’s membership ranks by this year. The academy, which has rapidly expanded in recent years, is set to announce its newest class of members next month.

Even with its A2020 benchmarks achieved, however, the academy’s board — which includes such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Laura Dern, Whoopi Goldberg and newly elected member Ava DuVernay — felt that the job was not yet finished.

“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,” academy Chief Executive Dawn Hudson said in a statement. “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,” academy President David Rubin said. “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.”

In terms of governance, the academy announced that it will amend its bylaws to enact maximum term limits for governors, with a new lifetime cap of 12 years of service on the board. Further, the group will create an Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity to oversee the Aperture 2025 initiative and work within the academy to ensure accountability throughout the organization.

The announcements come two days after the organization revealed the results of its most recent board of governors elections, which brought six new members into the group’s leadership ranks, including “Selma” director DuVernay, who has established herself as a prominent voice in Hollywood’s creative community on issues of diversity and inclusion. With these most recent elections, the number of female academy governors increases from 25 to 26, while the number of people of color increases from 11 to 12, including the three governors-at-large.

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As part of its public-facing efforts, the academy will host a series of panels called “Academy Dialogue: It Starts With Us” focused on issues of race, ethnicity and inclusivity in filmmaking. The programs will include a conversation hosted by Goldberg on the impact of racist tropes and degrading stereotypes in films as well as conversations on the need for systemic change across a range of fields in Hollywood to boost opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Amid concerns of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in fall and winter, the board will hold a Zoom meeting Monday with a discussion of a potential date change for the 93rd Oscars, currently scheduled for Feb. 28, and an extension of the eligibility period, among the possible items on the agenda.

In April, the academy relaxed its eligibility rules in response to the coronavirus outbreak to allow movies released directly to streaming to compete for Oscars for the first time. In the months since, insiders say the group has been continuously assessing the public health situation and its effect on awards season.

“We’re having ongoing discussions about all of this because we don’t have a crystal ball right now,” Hudson told The Times in late April. “We want to make the right decisions with as much information as we can — or I should say the right guesses. That’s really all we can do right now.”


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