So what happens now? I mean, with that presumed mountain of personal data collected over the last two months by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on its new Representation and Inclusion Standards Entry platform.
As reported, the Academy quietly launched the online RAISE platform on Sept. 15 as an initial step in its plan to require that contenders for the Best Picture Oscar meet set standards of racial, gender and disability inclusion in hiring and/or film content, beginning with the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
No film will be disqualified for failing to meet the standards in the current and the next awards cycles. But all Best Picture contenders are required to report—by today, the final day for general Oscar submissions—on the status of their films and associated workers, via the online platform.
The Academy’s questionnaire is semi-secret. It can only be viewed by producers who register a film—its elaborate queries, never mind the answers, can’t be seen by Academy members, the media, or the general public. But a peek at the first several online pages, shared by a user, made clear that the Academy is asking producers for specific and highly personal information about cast and other film workers. In assessing the status of a film’s actors, for instance, the platform requests name, email address, social media profile, racial and ethnic identity, gender and/or sexual orientation, and various disabilities.
Which raises the question: What now happens to all of that data, some of it highly personal, and most of it provided by a third party—the person or entity that manages a film’s RAISE account—with or without consulting the individuals involved?
In the very near term, the short answer is, nothing.
Responding to a set of queries, the Academy this weekend said that its only current plan is to review and analyze what’s been disclosed. The intent, in Year One, was to get producers, studios and filmmakers accustomed to the social inventory. In another year, or two, or three there will be time enough to proceed with reports or more proactive measures, including the identification, as an introduction to the platform promised, of “best practices relevant to the industry.”
Asked who, exactly, would be reviewing all this input, the Academy insisted that only select staff of its Office of Representation, Inclusion and Equity would have access to the data—no one else. Not the chief executive. Not the president. Not the governors. Not the lawyers.
That in itself raises some interesting questions. Let’s bypass a still distant hypothetical—what if, say, a party to an insurance dispute delivers a subpoena for information on some actor’s previously undisclosed disability? Will the Academy comply? Most news organizations, in a similar situation, tend to fight; but they often have the luxury of protection by powerful media shield laws.
But, more immediately, what about an individual’s ability to learn what’s being said about oneself?
According to the Academy, in fact, you can’t—at least, not directly or with any guarantee of full disclosure. If a request were made to review one’s own file, said the Academy, the inquirer would be redirected to the producer who supplied the information in the first place. If there’s a dispute, apparently, the two of you will have to slug it out.
It still isn’t clear how many productions have complied with the data request. The Academy declined to say whether the number of Best Picture contenders–all of whom are required to visit the platform–is up, down or about the same so far. Last year, the number was 366.
Nor would the group say how many films had invoked a RAISE platform option that allows a producer to side-step questions by checking a box that says: “I am unable to provide data related to this standard.”
That prompts a request for a description of your failed efforts. Come 2024, it might cut you out of the awards.
So for the moment, it’s all a learning experience. And so far, the Academy says it is pleased.