NEW YORK – With the goal of increasing diversity in Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vowed on Friday to double its membership of women and minorities by 2020.
The organizer of the Oscar awards is launching an action plan that implicates removing voting privileges from some older members.
The academy’s Board of Governors, constituted by 51 members, unanimously adopted the membership rule reforms on Thursday night, but the changes will not affect voting this year’s awards. The ceremony will be held on Feb. 28.
President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American to lead the organization, made the announcement after critics had hit the academy since it released the list of nominees a week earlier. Isaacs said the academy was prepared “to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up”.
There is a remarked absence of filmmakers or actors of color in this year’s Oscars nominations. According to a study conducted by Los Angeles Times in 2012, academy members are 94 percent white and 77 percent male, which explains why many critics claim the film industry disparages minorities and women on both sides of the camera, reducing opportunities for them by awarding them marginal or stereotyped roles.
The changes announced by the 88-year-old academy to increase diversity include launching “an ambitious global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.” The organization will add three new seats for women and minorities and add them to its governing board.
Every new member’s voting status will lapse after 10 years unless the person has been active in motion picture during that period. Only those members who have had three 10-year terms or have won or been nominated for an Oscar will have lifetime voting rights.
The same rules will apply to current members, which means that those who seek for lifetime voting rights but have been inactive in film during the past decade would have to either be nominated for an Oscar or win one, according to the statement released by the academy.
Those members losing voting rights would be moved from active to “emeritus” status. They would be absolved of paying dues and, except for voting, their academy privileges will remain the same.
Just a few hours after the Oscars’ announcement, Warner Bros issued a statement, describing the academy’s action “a great step toward broadening the diversity and inclusivity of the academy and, by extension, the industry.” However, Kevin Tsujihara, head of the Time Warner Inc-owned studio, said there was still more work to do.