In response to the recent backlash that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has received in regard to racism, the organization has been quick to make some changes. How these changes will affect the future of the academy or its prestigious awards will remain to be seen, as will the impact of the call for change on the night of the actual Oscars.
Increasing Diversity in the Academy
Jada Pinkett Smith recently announced that she will not be attending this year’s Oscars due to the underrepresentation of minorities within the Academy and within the award’s nominations. This year was the second year in a row without a single person of color nominated for an award. Soon after Pinkett’s announcement, her husband Will Smith also announced his plans to boycott the Oscars, followed by director Spike Lee and then other prominent people of color and whites within the industry. In response to these allegations, the Academy has already announced plans to make changes meant to double the number of women and diverse members within the academy by 2020.
Limiting Voting Rights
In an effort to ensure the Academy remains diverse, it has announced plans to put a 10-year time limit on voting rights. The voting status of new members will be renewed after ten years if they have been active during that ten-year period. They will be granted lifetime voting rights only after serving three ten-year terms while maintaining active status or if they win or are nominated for an Oscar. For current members who have not been active in the last ten years and who fail to qualify to vote in other ways, they will be moved to emeritus status. In this way, they won’t have to pay dues, but they also will not have voting rights.
While the changes to the voting process will not affect this year’s Oscars, the academy hopes the changes will help to address concerns regarding the diversity of the Academy’s nominees and membership. Other ideas that were considered included adding nominee slots to the acting and best picture categories. While long-term members are not likely to be happy about the change to voting, the board of governors passed the proposal unanimously.
Recruiting New Members
In addition to changing the voting guidelines, the Academy will embark on a global campaign to recruit new members who represent greater diversity. The Academy has also made plans to establish three new governor seats with the intention of immediately increasing diversity on the board. New members will also be added to the executive and board committees to help identify and groom future leaders.
The Oscars are typically one of the biggest nights in Hollywood, and will likely continue to be in 2016. With the changes the Academy is making, however, the awards ceremony should include far more diversity in the future.
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