Academy President On Oscars Diversity Controversy: “We Need To Do More, And Better And More Quickly”

As controversy over the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscars nominations continues to swell, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has issued a statement this evening addressing the issue.

Saying she is “heartbroken and frustrated” over the matter, Isaacs said the Academy is taking “dramatic steps” to improve, and will in the coming weeks review membership recruitment as part of that process. “We need to do more, and better and more quickly,” she said. “We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”

Isaacs’ statement mirrors those made to our own Pete Hammond on the matter last week. “We have got to speed it up,” she said at the time. Since then however, the controversy stemming from the utter lack of nonwhite acting nominees and a near-shut out of nonwhite creators in the other major categories has only become more intense. #OscarsSoWhite, introduced during last year’s identical controversy, is once again trending on the social media platform, this year accompanied by calls for an outright boycott: Jada Pinkett Smith floated the idea last week, and was joined today by director Spike Lee.

Isaacs’ full statement is below.

I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.

As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.

This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.

  1. Cheryl needs to resign or be fired since Social Activism/Justice is more important to her then the art of filmmaking and film appreciation.

    1. I totally agree. She has come out and, literally, stated that our Academy system is flawed and racist because black artists weren’t nominated. What?!? She knows that color has nothing to do with nominations for excellence in our industry.

      What does she plan on doing? Have “black” categories? Lower membership admission standards for ‘people of color’? Institute a quota system so people’s feelings don’t get hurt? She seems to be suffering from the ‘Obama Effect’. She believes that blacks will simply vote for blacks because theyre black — regardless of the quality of their product. Doesn’t she understand that she, alone, is devaluing the artistic value of future nominees who are people of color?

      As an Academy member she’s insulted my integrity. It’s unfortunate that her political agenda is shining though — it’s obvious that she hopes to be employees by one of these folks that she’s bending over backwards for.

      We elected her. It’s time for her to leave. She appears to me more interested in kin color than art. Bye. Bye.

      P.S. In case POC didn’t notice, there were a lot of white people who weren’t nominated, either. I don’t see them crying like spoiled little girls.

      1. Rachel T<wanted to comment on this article but you have said it all. it took me 10 years and a body of work to get into the academy and I had to be nominated by 2 people in my category and voted on by the membership committee. How is this process going to change to bring in miniorties ?
        And why is it only actors that are important for diversity? Yes, they are the face of a film but every category below and above the line influence the final product. I think this dialogue is going to hurt the nomination process. The next black actor ( because again that's all we seem to care about) to get a nomination or an award should wonder if it was deserved or are they just filling a quota or assuaging the Academy's conscience?

    2. Yep, you are too right. She is not the head of the PC Police. Most actors never get an Oscar nod, let alone a statue. It is HARD. Work harder and make better films. Simple.

  2. Since TV has become the playground of Feature “regulars” I think experienced Professionals with serious resumes should be allowed to join. Also I would suggest 10 nominations in each of the Actor Categories.

  3. if voters don’t think the movies, performers, directors, etc. are worthy of Academy nominations, so be it. What else is there to say? Doing a job well is its own reward. That and a paycheck is all one can expect. Lots of people and their creative efforts are overlooked each year. Personally, I think Idris Elba deserves at least a nomination, but more, he deserves the best actor award.

  4. The Oscars shouldn’t be voting on anything because of race/gender/etc. They should be doing what they’ve always done and vote for the best films of the year. The number of non-white nominations is reflected in the number of worthy non-white projects. The onus is on the studios, not the Academy, to produce more work with non-white people.

  5. How exactly do you “recruit” a new member of the Academy? It is a privilege to have a vote. Secondly, recruiting more African Americans does not guarantee that more will be nominated — unless the assumption is that said recruited members will vote on race instead of merit– which is very troubling.

    Problems are systemic, and it starts with movies that are being made outside of the traditional studio tentpoles. For every Ride Along 2 there is not a Straight Outta Compton. Instead, the Barbershop movies are the rule, with SOC the exception. You simply cannot bank on getting nominated with simply one horse in the race…2 if you count Creed (which nevertheless is still a sequel!)

    More black directors. More black actors cast. Better content. Those are the first solutions.

    1. I agree. Especially if the main crime in the social media world is the color of the actors.

      If so than this has nothing to do with the academy and everything to do with the studios, casting directors, producers and directors. They truly make the call on who we see on the big screen. Plenty of quality actors that are Asian Latino and black that could be in some of the nominated films that are not based on historical stories.

  6. Isn’t Cheryl in her final year as President of the Academy ? Perhaps the Academy might want to reconsider their ‘term out’ clause. She’s definitely going to need another year to get any substantive agenda in action. What the industry should really be more concerned about is a boycott by moviegoers whose numbers skew alarmingly black/brown – not Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith. If there is a groundswell that builds from this it could be devastating for the studio’s bottom line. Do not underestimate the power of social media! Cheryl needs to have some serious closed door meetings with the STUDIO AND AGENCY HEADS not their HR surrogates and determine a course of action that will result in systematic industry change. It’s very hard for the ‘old guard’ (actually not really all that old but very white) to share power … but one thing they do understand is weak quarterly box office profits!

  7. Let’s not forget 12 Years a Slave from only a few years ago. If the studios make more racially diverse slates of film, there will be more diverse nominees in all categories and more racially diverse winners.

    Having a mandated more racially diverse membership is not going to solve the problem until the studios begin to make product for a more varied audience and Cheryl suggesting that a more diverse membership will somehow nominate more diverse films is silly and in fact undermines the idea of the Academy by suggesting that members would vote their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation as opposed to voting for excellence in the films which the studios choose to make. You could argue in fact that her statement to that effect suggests or atlas validates the claim of latent racism within the membership which is wrong and frankly insulting coming from our president. Shame Cheryl.

  8. If it’s the studio’s fault then hit the studios where it counts. Don’t just Boycott the award show, Boycott the movies. People of color spend more money going to the movies. Stop paying money to see movies and instead of the studios boasting about who makes it to a billion dollars first, they will be wondering why people aren’t supporting their films. It’s because of a lack of diversity and recognition for all deserving film artists, actors, directors and crew members.

    1. Right. The movies have to be made to play and studios dont like making dramas white or black. Look at the nominees mostly independent financing. So the issue is about financing.

  9. I’m just curious. How did a marketing consultant/public relations exec become the President of the Academy? She’s not an actor, she’s not a writer, she’s not a director nor a producer. She’s not a creative person on any level and yet she is the President of Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Just curious.

  10. You can take out voters who are not voting over a period of time, you can expand the pool of voters over the last decade using a broader criteria to make them younger.

    What you can’t do is put in some sort of quota system because that would ruin anyone or film that got chosen for a nomination.

  11. I hate that this is being made an issue again. In a year where Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg weren’t nominated for Best Director even though their films were nominated for Best Picture, I’m supposed to be up in arms that Ryan Coogler wasn’t nominated Best Director for his second feature film? Spike and Jada, by all means stay home.

    1. So because it was his second film that somehow means he automatically doesn’t deserve a nomination? Exactly how many films does someone have to direct before a work can be considered?

      1. Second film would be fine if it were something more more substantive than Creed. Even Stallone’s nom is a lifetime achievement award.

  12. Sadly, the lack of nominations for non-white actors is more a reflection of the ongoing failure of Hollywood (read: the money people) to consider anyone other than a white actor for a major role that isn’t written race-specific. HOWEVER, considering who gets to do the nominating definitely needs to be overhauled. It doesn’t matter how many new, diverse members are recruited when there are still so many of the old guard living to 90 that do the voting. Perhaps there should be a stricter criteria to continue having that privilege so as new members are added, inactive members are removed. This isn’t to encourage ageism, but rather to create a new criteria that is regularly assessed based on a variety of factors.

    That being said, the whole nominating process has become a joke. The placement of Alicia Vikander and Rooney Mara in the supporting actress category is complete fraud and concrete evidence that the campaigning process needs to be overhauled. It’s not just the amount of screen time they have – their stories carry their films equal to their costars. Best Song and Best Documentary nominees seldom reflect public or critical response and there needs to be some sort of consideration for comedic films and performances. Anyone can do drama, but the same cannot be said for comedy and yet it’s never taken seriously (pardon the pun).

    The rules are not the Constitution. They need to be amended across the board.

  13. Why do people think that non-white nominees means less quality. Its not a quota system. It’s about fairness. Someone mentioned that a more diverse academy would have people voting along racial lines. Well the Academy is 92% white and their voting 99% white in Oscar nominations. It amazes me how some people don’t see this as a problem. Completely ignoring the fact that Hollywood has a racist history. Ignoring the fact that the face of the moving going public has changed. Ignoring the fact that China is the #2 box office market and in a few years will be the largest in the world. Demographics, statistics and all other metrics are pointing in one direction. Its time for the Academy, Studios, Agencies and Execs responsible for greenlighting projects to get with the times. Yes that means you will finally have to compete for your jobs. But in what industry is competition not good a thing.

    1. Do you think they should just revoke memberships of white Academy Members? I doubt that the Actors Branch is 92% white–which is what this is about, isn’t it? The acting nominees. No one seems to care that the feature animation includes 2 of 5 animated movies directed by minorities. Also if Cheryl wants immediate and drastic changes what is she suggesting? Should we eliminate the best actor nominee that came in 5th and replace him with the highest vote getter that’s black? We should probably also eliminate #4 and replace it with a Hispanic actor AND since then we will eclude Asians we should replace #3 with an Asian actor. Cause this is where it’s heading. Because acting nominees should be a reflection of the US population and not the best performances that are out there. I see this basically moving towards expanding the number of nominees and when you have 10 nominees per category it devalues getting a nomination because we would be in “everyone gets a trophy” environment. I also think this diminishes the fine work of actors of color who have won or been nominated in past.

      1. Its not about this year. Its about the whole process. Starting with development at the studios. Ive read where some people agreed that the nonworking voters should be replaced. That could be a start. I would also get rid of best foreign film. Instead have 4 foreign made films compete with 4 USA selections. I’m sure those actors in foreign can compete with the usual domestic fare. Also, theres no excuse for Academy members to not watch the films. Its striking how many members dont.

    2. You make it sound as if Whoopi Goldberg is the only person of color that votes.

      I get tired of this. We are all just people. If anyone wants to boycott the Oscars then fine. Seat fillers won’t have to move around as much.

  14. is she saying that the academy needs more black members? implying, of course, that white members vote for white actors…and adding black members will up the vote for black actors. Apparently she doesn’t believe that members may actually be voting for the most qualified. Now who is the real racist here????

  15. Perhaps a solution would be to split the AMPAS into different nominating groups. Race and gender should be separated as well digital and photochemical capture for the technical catagories.

  16. Is there any other industry association that gives awards of merit based on diversity, gender, race, or ethnicity, etc.? That demeans the value of the award (which may be in question, but that’s another topic). No, the award is for EXECELLENCE. If the Academy can find a way to expand it’s voting base to be more diverse, that should be one solution.

    Stop pouting and do something constructive, not just arranging a boycott or another hashtag.

  17. as one of the (seemingly) few Republicans in Hollywood, I can’t help but chuckle over this whole uproar/controversy. Since the movie business is essentially run by liberals who pride themselves on bashing the red states and conservatives as racists and misogynists (war on women anyone?), how is it that African Americans are so under-represented in Hollywood — and specifically, this week, in the Oscar acting categories — not to mention Hollywood’s executive ranks — and women so under-represented in the directing ranks, among others? How is that possible? In addition, considering how anti-gun, anti-NRA Hollywood is, why are there guns in so many movies and in so much marketing material??? For example, as a tribute to MLK Jr Day I’m sure, we have Ice Cube and Kevin Hart pointing guns at the audience on all the Ride Along 2 posters. Ah, black lives matter. I love it when hypocrisy bites the self-righteous in the butt.

  18. bowing down to those who constantly bully via the victim card is not helping anyone. so grow a pair and STOP DOING IT. in the end, black actors who receive nominations after the cowardly academy “corrects” itself simply won’t be equally respected for the achievement. don’t lie to yourselves. you know it’s true, and also perfectly understandable.

  19. is sexual orientation really the problem? Between THE DANISH GIRL, CAROL, MONSTER, BOYS DON’T CRY, MILK, PHILADELPHIA, THE IMITATION GIRL, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE HOURS, CAPOTE, BEGINNERS, GODS & MONSTERS, TRANSAMERICA, etc., I don’t think the Academy has a problem nominating either gay movies, actors in gay roles, or gay actors.

    1. Interesting that you say gay actors with that list. Most on that list have straight actors playing gay ones. The only example that stands out is Ian McKellan for Gods & Monsters.

  20. When millions tune-in to the Oscar telecast they will see Chris Rock hosting and, of course, making a dozen jokes about the white BET, etc. he will come off as racist to the mostly white audience. When they see dozens of black presenters and mostly black entertainers they will only be left saying, “I don’t see the problem, looks like over-representation to me”. The response needs to be a total boycott by the African-American community making that stage look like 1960s NASA. Maybe the white community will get the idea at that point.
    By the way, recruiting black membership thinking they will vote for black nominees is pretty racist in itself.

    1. so nobody wins in any way or form no matter what is done, in your world-view. white equals racist and that’s that. thanks for clearing it all up.

    2. I don’t see how a boycott honestly helps. The general audience does not care that much and this is not a way to convince studio heads and producers to hire those that are protesting. Boycotting is ignoring Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Halle berry, whoopi Goldberg, Cuba gooding Jr., Monique, Louis gosset Jr.– it’s not as if black actors have not been nominated– black actors have won in the past — so how can you call the oscars now racist? Because two performances were not nominated? Will smith was not nominated for a sag award — which I will agree he does deserve– but it happens every year that a performance does not get nominated. It’s the roles. You can’t say that there is an overwhelming amount of black performances that could even fill one category. This just cannot be the academy’s fault– they nominated John singleton for best director for boyz in the hood more than 20 years ago.

    1. So five deserving nominees and five affirmative action nominees. Gotcha. Of course what you’re saying is that non-whites aren’t good enough to compete for an Oscar based on merit though past non-white nominees and winners prove otherwise. Which means you’re the racist.

  21. How aggressively did the studios campaign for people of color in the major categories compared to the eventual nominees? That might be a major part of the problem.

  22. Personally I think much of the Academy voting has become a popularity contest. For example..Jennifer Lawrence continues to be nominated when she is a mediocre talent who tends to play the same type of character over and over. But she’s the “it” girl right now. I don’t think a bunch of leading roles were thrown at Lupita Nyong’o when she won several years ago. And in my opinion she is vastly more talented that Lawrence.

  23. Has Spike Lee, who earned a special Oscar this year, really advanced the cause in his own career? Outside of Do the Right Thing, I can’t think of too many of his films that have been left seriously bleeding on the side of the road without deserved nominations.

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