Motion Picture Academy Lifts Quotas Restricting Number of New Members

In hopes of increasing and diversifying its ranks, the organization will allow its branches to offer more invitations to join this year.

As it begins its annual process of selecting new members, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is looking this year to increase its membership rolls with an eye toward also increasing the diversity within its ranks.

To that end, the Academy has lifted a quota system that’s been in place for the past ten years that restricted how many new members each of the Academy’s 15 branches could extend invitations to each year.

In recent years, the Academy’s voting membership has hovered around the 5,800 mark. For the most recently Academy Awards, it officially numbered 5,856.

STORY: Academy Reveals Details About Its May 4 General Meeting

Since that number is constantly changing because of deaths and retirements, each June the Academy sends out invitations to a new group of prospective members. In 2012, 176 invitations were extended. The previous year 178 invitations went out.

But this past fall, the general membership committee recommended to the organization’s board of governors that the annual quotas should be lifted, allowing the branches to bring in more members, according to an Academy spokesperson. The policy change was first reported Friday by the Los Angeles Times.

The Academy is stressing, however, that its criterion for selecting new members is not changing or being relaxed. To qualify, a writer, producer or director has to have at least two screen credits that “reflect the Academy’s highest standards.” Actors have to have had performed in scripted roles in at least three such films. And some of the technical branches require that prospective members have worked in their fields for a certain number of years.

New members are chosen by each of the branch’s membership committees. Oscar nominees are automatically considered for membership – although a nomination by itself does not guarantee an invitation. Otherwise, a prospective member must be sponsored by two members from a given branch. The recommendations of the branches are then passed on to the general membership committee and ultimately approved by the board of governors.

It’s unknown at this point whether relaxing the quotas will result in a dramatic surge of new members. The branch committee meetings begin in May, and the 2013 invitations to join will be issued by late June.