The day of the nominations, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American President of the Academy, stated that she was “heartbroken” due to the lack of diversity among the nominees. From that moment, her leadership and the Academy were instantly under attack. Facing a potential widespread boycott of the Oscars, she instantly called an emergency meeting on Jan. 21st with the Academy Board of Governors to discuss a solution. On Jan. 22nd, it was announced that changes would be made to diversify the members of the Academy.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.” – Cheryl Boone Isaacs
By 2020 Isaacs hopes to have doubled the Academy’s female and minority membership. The idea, she wrote to the academy members after the meeting is to “supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.” Currently the membership is approximately 94% white, 77% male, and 86% of the members are over the age of 50.
During Awards season 2017, new members will have a 10-year voting status, renewable if they remain “active” in some aspect of the film industry. Members will be granted lifetime voter status after three consecutive 10-year terms. Or if they receive an Oscar nomination or an Oscar.
I am very hopeful with the new changes that will be taking place; however, the difficult part of this equation will become evident when the Academy begins to recruit new members.
“The Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.” – Cheryl Boone Isaacs
To join the actors’ branch of the Academy, actors must have “(a) have a minimum of three theatrical feature film credits, in all of which the roles played were scripted roles, one of which was released in the past five years, and all of which are of a caliber that reflect the high standards of the Academy, and/or (b) have been nominated for an Academy Award in one of the acting categories, or (c) have, in the judgment of the Actors Branch Executive Committee, otherwise achieved unique distinction, earned special merit or made an outstanding contribution as a motion picture actor.”(Oscars.org)
Realistically, there aren’t too many of actors of color receiving the required three film credits. Even if they’re getting work, there’s no guarantee that the movies would be “of a caliber that reflect the high standards of the Academy.” The same problem exists with the other categories.
This transition will not be easy; however, I admire the leadership of Cheryl Boone Isaacs as she begins to change the face of an 87 year old institution despite the adverse reaction that she is undoubtedly receiving from current Academy members whose voting privileges will be revoked in the future. I simply read the “comments” section in major industry trades, and am completely taken aback by the narrow minded views and opinions that many feel the need to express, so I can only imagine what Isaacs is dealing with, and I commend her for handling it all with such grace and poise.
There is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed and now that Hollywood’s dirty laundry has been aired, it’s time to fix these issues from the core. It won’t be an easy task; however, it is certainly needed, and I have full faith and confidence that Cheryl Boone Isaacs will change the game in Hollywood.