April 29, 2013 at 9:32 am #100648
Oscars film academy may expand its ranks
The move would aim to add diversity to the mostly white, mostly male academy.
April 26, 2013, 4:11 p.m.
by Nicole Sperling
Los Angeles Times
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is aiming to expand and diversify its ranks by relaxing a cap on membership that has restricted new admittances since 2004.
The academy has about 5,800 voting members; in recent years, fewer than 200 people have been invited to join annually. The number of openings is essentially determined by how many members have retired, resigned or died. In the last decade, the overall ranks have not grown by more than 30 members a year.
Academy leaders say they are not loosening the qualifications for membership. Rules state that there are three ways to become eligible for admittance: an Oscar nomination, a recommendation from two members of the applicant’s branch, or an endorsement by the branch’s membership committee and staff.
It is unclear just how many new members the academy will invite this year, and when and how the policy change was arrived at. An academy spokeswoman said Friday that the change was recommended last fall to the Board of Governors by the general membership committee.
It appears the change will start to take effect next month, when membership committees from each of the group’s 15 branches meet to begin reviewing invitations for 2013. Last June, the academy invited 179 new members.
Sound branch member Don Hall, who is on the Board of Governors, said it’s a good move that will allow a greater number of accomplished people in his technical field to be recognized. “We can now invite in others who haven’t won awards but are just as deserving,” he said. “Without the quota, we can get them in.”
The academy has periodically faced calls to diversify its ranks. A 2012 L.A. Times study found that nearly 94% of academy voters are white and 77% are male. Blacks make up about 2% of the academy and Latinos less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed.
Between 1990 and 2000, the academy added nearly 800 net new members. The group put the brakes on membership growth prior to issuing invites in 2004 after then-executive director Bruce Davis alerted the Board of Governors to a steep increase in the ranks despite no commensurate growth in the film business.
“For most organizations, becoming larger is an unalloyed good, an objective hotly pursued,” the academy said in a 2007 report. “For a group made up of distinguished contributors to an art form though, there is a case to be made for selectivity trumping growth.”
More recently, though, academy leaders, including Chief Executive Dawn Hudson and past president Tom Sherak, have said they have been trying to diversify the membership. But change has been difficult, they have said, because the film industry is not very diverse in the first place, and slow because the academy has been limiting membership growth for the last decade.
One member who is familiar with the invitation process but asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak by academy officials said in recent years branch membership committees often would not even fill the number of slots they were allocated by academy leaders.
A member of the producers branch, who asked that his name not be used, said this week he wasn’t sure how much of an immediate effect the relaxation of the membership cap would have in his division.
“I suspect we will be pretty self-limiting in terms of who we take in, in large part because the people on our membership committee have produced a lot of movies and want to keep the academy a merit-based organization,” he said. He added that in order to be eligible for admission to the producers branch, a prospective member must have two full producing credits on “works of a particular value.”April 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm #100650
It sounds like a good start, but I’m surprised with a 77% male and 4% black and latino membership, that AMPAS hasn’t faced multiple anti-discrimination suits. It is 2013–it is hard for me to believe that an organization could have nearly 80% men and 94% white members without a concerted effort to scare off minorities and women.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a token measure. AMPAS seriously needs to address their demographic imbalance as well as the persistent racebending in casting in Hollywood (which also limits their membership). Sadly, I don’t think this will happen prior to the time that a court forces them to do so.April 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm #100651
Why sue AMPAS? The problem is Hollywood.April 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm #100652
Why sue AMPAS? The problem is Hollywood.
AMPAS has decided to make Hollywood their reference point. They have decided to make an industry that has about 10% of the diversity of the rest of the country it inhabits as their reference point. It is their own damn fault if they get sued for being discriminatory. What other national organizations wouldn’t be sued for having such skewed demographics?April 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm #100653
They’ve been trying to diversify the membership in recent years but it’s not easy. I don’t think the Academy will ever be a reflection of society. Watching the credits of a movie, I rarely see women editors, cinematographers or composers. How many women work in the fields of visual effects or sound? There are more women producers, directors and writers but unfortunately they’re still vastly outnumbered by the men.April 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm #100654
They’ve been trying to diversify the membership in recent years but it’s not easy. I don’t think the Academy will ever be a reflection of society. Watching the credits of a movie, I rarely see women editors, cinematographers or composers. How many women work in the fields of visual effects or sound? There are more women producers, directors and writers but unfortunately they’re still vastly outnumbered by the men.
The only way they can do it while maintaining the quality of the membership is to hold the studios responsible. For example, they could say that if a studio has excessive racebending in films or a workplace that is exclusionary to women and minorities, that no films by that studio will be considered for awards and no employees of that studio will be considered for membership.April 30, 2013 at 4:36 am #100655
Don’t be ridiculous. How could you possibly prove such a thing?
Tyjet and outsider are absoluitely right. The reason that that the demographics of the Academy are so skewed towards old, white, men is that those that gain prominence in the particular fields are old, white, men. There is no suggestion that the Academy is discriminating against qualified people because of gender or race, there just aren’t that many that can be invited.
It’s a good thing if they are looking to address the problem, but suggesting some kind of penalty to studios that don’t live up to your standard is ludicrous.April 30, 2013 at 5:25 am #100656
The demographics are far too skewed right now to be excused by anything other than discrimination. A 94% white demographic is absolutely insane. There is no way to explain such a bias without blatant discrimination. And it is not a valid excuse, in my opinion, to say that AMPAS is skewed today only due to a past bigoted era. If that is true, then they need to make a concerted effort today to fix their past mistakes. One of the options is to police the studios. This is the simplest way to fix the demographic imbalance. More extreme measures may be needed if they don’t employ this option.April 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm #100657
It’s not a matter of the Academy discriminating with black people and women. There are moments and certain aspects of theirs that can be racist or sexist, sure. But with exception of acting, all other segments in the medium really are almost exclusively white men. It goes back to fact that to be able to afford film school and investing in a tough career move people usually come from a more privileged background and have less social stigma to face. And it goes back to the fact that american studios built themselves like a rich boys club, and the effects of that are felt to this day still in some ways in the consequences that caused. And those aren’t even exclusive to Hollywood, but in many countries in Europe and Latin America it was similar.
While it might seem it has took too long (and it really has), as much as the Academy has some blame, it really took many and many decades for female and black filmmakers to find some little room in Hollywood, and since their criteria of excelence has a lot to do with the relevance in current american cinema, it’s not something you can just fix by inviting as many possible, because that is still very little when considering the male and white dominance in the medium.April 30, 2013 at 9:41 pm #100658
Oh, and more so than the studios, what should be invested is ways to have art and film education more accessible and in other forms and means of production for feature films for those who don’t have Hollywood connections. In the end, you can police them all you want, it still won’t guarentee change because, like I said, the racial and gender divide when it comes to filmmaking exists as an issue in the very foundation. First, you have to lose that divide in existing talent, and that only comes by diversifing the means of education and production. If you do that, then you’ll diversify the social background, race and gender of the professionals in the medium, and that will eventually affect Hollywood in some way or help make american cinema less centered around the studios. Either way, it’s much more complex than lawsuits or policing the studios.