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Oscars introducing major new diversity standards for Best Picture eligibility

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Oscars introducing major new diversity standards for Best Picture eligibility 3

In 2016, the #OscarsSoWhite social campaign shone a searing spotlight on the fact that the world’s biggest and most prestigious film industry awards show was still marginalizing filmmakers of colour either in front of or behind the camera when it failed to include a single person of colour among 20 acting nominees, not to mention the frequent rarity of nominated directors being non-white males. In response, the Academy of Motion Pictures Science and Arts vowed to make a change (and not just the lip service of nominating Black Panther for some Oscars), and it would appear that it is actually putting its money where its mouth is.

The Academy started that change by upping the diversity in its own ranks and putting a cap on how long members can serve on its governing board, which has historically been filled almost exclusively by old white guys. But that was only half of the problem. In June, the Academy announced the Academy Aperture 2025, a multi-year plan to ensure the diversity of the films that it honours every year, by placing down strict new eligibility requirements. Now the details of that plan have been revealed.

Oscars introducing major new diversity standards for Best Picture eligibility 4

Starting with the 94th Oscars in 2022, a series of new representation and inclusion requirements will begin rolling out until they are fully in effect for the 96th Oscars in 2024. These take the form of four new Standards, two of which have to be met for a film to be eligible for the grand prize of Best Picture. The Standards break down into smaller criteria subsets which determine whether they are met are not, as per below:


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.

• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

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:

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter

The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

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:

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:

• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

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:

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

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:

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

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:

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

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.

• Women
• Racial or ethnic group:
•Asian
•Hispanic/Latinx
•Black/African American
•Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
•Middle Eastern/North African
•Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
•Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
•LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing


If you’re thinking that these new Standards sound heavy-handed, that’s because they are. But they also need to be. These are actually not hard to achieve and won’t require some massive upheaval of the industry to accomplish (some other awards shows, like the BAFTAs, already boast some of them), but just simply asking studios and filmmakers to be more inclusive on their productions has not worked for the most part. So this is the Academy actually trying to be the industry leader its prestige dictates that it should be, which is admittedly rather surprising for such a historically problematic institution. A pleasant surprise though.

Currently these new eligibility standards are just targeting the Best Picture category, with the Best Animated Film, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Feature Length Documentary set to be addressed separately later.

Last Updated: September 9, 2020

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