5:53pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Oscar Voters React to Academy's New Inclusion Plans
Last Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed that it has met its 'A2020' goals announced amidst the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of several years ago — namely, to double its number of female and non-white members by 2020 — and that its board of governors has approved a package of additional measures to try to further improve the diversity of its membership and Oscar nominees, to be known as 'Academy Aperture 2025.'
The Academy declared that prior to the 94th Oscar season, it will set up a task force "to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility"; shift from a fluctuating five to 10 best picture nominees to a guaranteed 10 in order to maximize the diversity of films nominated for the Academy's top honor; implement a "quarterly viewing process" through the streaming site on which members view Oscar hopefuls at home in order to "level the playing field"; and impose term limits on board members.
Over the days since, The Hollywood Reporter has surveyed Academy members from across the organization's 17 branches to get a sense of how they feel about the announcement.
"This is the Academy saying, 'We mean it, man,'” writers branch member Howard Rodman, a former president of the Writers Guild of America West, responded. "It declares a fundamental and necessary shift, from representing the industry to leading it. In 2020 it’s what all of our institutions need to be doing. Kudos to AMPAS for putting down this marker."
Other members indicated they are also pleased that the Academy took action — if also unclear about how diversity requirements will be tied to Oscar eligibility. "I'll be very curious to see what the requirements look like, in practice," said Jordan Horowitz of the producers branch, a best picture Oscar nominee for La La Land. "But I do think the Academy realizes that there's an incredible amount of work we need to do in order to tip the scales towards equality, so this feels like a good and well-intentioned step on that path."
Added veteran distribution specialist Larry Gleason of the executives branch, "In light of what's going on around the country right now, the Academy needed to take a forward position in looking at its diversity situation. I'm anxious to see what kind of recommendations they are going to come up with. I'm hoping it isn't so draconian that it will affect the creativity of filmmakers. But it is really important that we do better."
Writers branch member Geoffrey Fletcher, who became the first black scribe to win a screenplay Oscar when he was recognized for 2009's Precious, stated, "I'm encouraged by the Academy's continuing efforts to spark progress, though I personally hope that the expansion to 10 nominees will someday be rendered unnecessary by the success of these and other industry-wide measures."
And Bruce Feldman of the marketing and public relations branch, a publicist who has orchestrated Oscar campaigns like those that resulted in major prizes for Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Trip to Bountiful, expressed displeasure not about the steps taken, but that members are not consulted by their governors prior to major decisions like these. "I appreciate that these are difficult issues to resolve and I know that the board has good intentions," he asserted. "But what the hell are they talking about, exactly? What is the reality of how you go about [implementing diversity requirements for Oscar eligibility]?"
Feldman continued, "This reminds me of the announcement about the popular Oscar and the plan to disenfranchise older members — they went ahead saying they were going to do it, but they didn't have any details in place and it blew up in their face. The thing to do would be to not announce that you are planning something, but to figure out what you’d like to do, get feedback from members and then make a considered decision. That's what adults — people who run real, well-managed organizations — do."
The 93rd Oscars will take place on April 25, 2020, it was announced on Monday.