As promised when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Academy Aperture 2025 initiative in June, new standards of representation and inclusion have been announced by AMPAS today that will gradually be put in place for the 94th (2022) and 95th (2023) Oscars but in full effect beginning with the 96th Academy Awards in 2024. In its most dramatic swing toward true diversity, Oscar is laying down significant requirements in order to be eligible for Hollywood’s most sought-after prize: Best Picture.
Having at least one Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or unspecified other underrepresented race or ethnicity as a “lead or significant supporting actor” is a potential requirement under the new guidelines, with those ethnicities also mentioned for prominent production and marketing jobs. Additionally, employing women, LGBTQ+, members of a racial or ethnic group, and people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing might be required for at least 30% of actors in secondary and more minor roles; having a storyline centered on an underrepresented group; hiring creative leadership and department heads; maintaining least 30% crew composition; paid internships; and representation in marketing and distribution also are potential areas in order to be a Best Picture contender. Producers don’t have to meet all of the requirements of the new doctrine, just half.
Long relying on the industry itself to make diversity a significant part of the way they make movies, the Academy now is taking action on its own to make sure Oscar-starved filmmakers get the message. It is a key sea change for an organization that had resisted imposing specific moviemaking rules on the industry, but, rather like Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, just liked “to watch.” But that was then, and this is now. AMPAS has set four specific sets of standards covering areas I listed above, and a film must meet at least two of them to be Best Picture material.
This is a seismic action in Oscar history, one many think is long overdue but something that still could cause controversy in some segments of the industry that might balk at taking marching orders from AMPAS, even though variations of these kinds of requirements are already in place at other organizations such as BAFTA. This is still a momentous effort and could not come at a more opportune time in light of worldwide movements for equality in all walks of life. Since #OscarsSoWhite became a viral siren call for the (then) longtime largely white and male Academy membership to diversify, the organization has indeed been heading toward real change.
According to the AMPAS release, the standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the moviegoing audience. Academy governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos headed a task force to develop the standards that were created from a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Awards, but were adapted to serve the specific needs of the Academy. AMPAS also consulted with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), as it presently does for Oscars eligibility.
“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”
None of this affects the current 93rd Oscars eligibility year — which, due to the pandemic, now stretches from January 1, 2020 through February 28, 2021 (the next Oscar show is set for its latest date ever, April 25, 2021). Beginning with the 94th and 95th Oscars, submitting a “confidential” Academy Inclusion Standards form will be required for Best Picture consideration, though meeting the actual inclusion thresholds will not be required for Best Picture eligibility until the 96th Oscars in 2024.
According to the Academy, these new standards apply only to Best Picture and do not affect other categories, which will stick to their current eligibility requirements. However, films in the specialty categories of Animated Feature, Documentary Feature and International Feature Film that are also submitted for Best Picture/General Entry consideration will thus be addressed separately.
Here are the specific standards announced today:
STANDARD A: ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:
A1. Lead or significant supporting actors
At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
A2. General ensemble cast
At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
A3. Main storyline/subject matter
The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:
B1. Creative leadership and department heads
At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:
At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:
B2. Other key roles
At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.
B3. Overall crew composition
At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
STANDARD C: INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:
C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities
The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.
The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.
C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew)
The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:
D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution
The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
Academy Aperture 2025 is the next phase of the Academy’s equity and inclusion initiative furthering the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.
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