In an effort to address long-endured criticisms of poor inclusivity, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (or more commonly, the Academy) has announced a plan to press diversity into movie sets of the future. This new initiative, announced and released in full text Sept. 8, consists of four new pillars of eligibility requirements for movies submitted to the Academy, of which film creators must fulfill two, beginning with the 2024 competition and ceremony.
In full disclosure, the following content borrows heavily from the exact language of the Academy for the purpose of adhering tightly to their intentions and to avoid any misunderstandings of their new rules.
Much of the language of the new guidelines hinges upon underrepresented racial or ethnic groups and underrepresented groups in general. For context, the former, per the Academy, includes Asian, Latinx, Black, Indigenous, Middle Eastern or North African, Pacific Islander or any other underrepresented race or ethnicity (pending Academy approval); the latter term encompasses the previous concept of underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, along with women, LGBTQ+ and people with cognitive or physical disabilities.
The first pillar encompasses requirements of representation in films and addresses the actual content of submissions — the only pillar to do so. To reach the expectations, a film must have a lead or significant supporting role played by an actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, have 30 percent of the cast comprising at least two different underrepresented groups or have a main focus centering on an underrepresented group.
The second pillar focuses on the film crew and the people involved who typically do not appear on screen. To fulfill this requirement, the film must have two leadership roles and/or department heads (qualifying positions detailed by the Academy) from underrepresented groups, with at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group; six crew and technical positions that fall outside of the first description, excluding production assistants, filled by members from underrepresented racial groups; or at least 30 percent of the film crew from underrepresented groups.
The third pillar addresses offering opportunities to people not so involved with the final product for the film. To meet this requirement, the film’s distribution company as well as the studio must offer paid apprenticeship and/or internship opportunities to people from underrepresented groups, the number of which depends upon the studio’s size, but must include underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, the film’s production/distribution company must offer below-the-line skill training and/or work opportunities to underrepresented groups.
The fourth and final pillar centers on advertising. To reach the expectations here, the studio and/or film company must have multiple senior executives from underrepresented groups and must include underrepresented racial and ethnic groups specifically.
Again, any film submitted to the Academy, starting with the 2024 ceremony, must meet the expectations of at least two of the aforementioned pillars. However, the Academy will begin to require the submission of a confidential form regarding inclusion with films as of the 2022 and 2023 ceremonies.
Of course, this move immediately met criticism. As soon as the Academy released news of this change, an eruption occurred on social media, primarily on Twitter, where the change appeared on the trending list. The most frequent criticisms fell in great correspondence to typical conservative and liberal viewpoints, with the former expressing concerns over films potentially having casts unrealistically diverse for their stories, whether on historical or regional accuracy; and the latter, although seeming less likely to provide criticism, tending to suggest the reforms would not do enough. Discourse, however, reminds us that only one of the four pillars concerns on-screen characters and that this could perhaps be the first step in a line of changes to alter the face of the Oscars each year.