The Oscars Update Diversity Requirements for Best Picture Eligibility
As of September 8, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released new rules regarding submissions for the Best Picture category that will go into effect in 2024.
What exactly are these new rules? Their goal is to increase diversity both on-screen and off-screen, in the narratives that are told, with the voices who are telling them, through the bodies that produce the work, and with the powers that fund and promote the films. Within recent years, the Oscars have continually received backlash for their lack of diversity within the entertainment world.
If you look at the statistics of movie-making, it’s hard not to notice who’s stories are really being told. It’s also difficult not to notice inequalities when voices within the industry start bringing it up with their platforms, such as Frances McDormand’s acceptance speech in which she discusses inclusion riders. If an actor puts an inclusion rider in their contract for a project, this project is therefore required to hire a certain amount of diverse cast and crew members as well. Therefore the minority groups ‘ride’ the wave of ‘inclusion’ that actor has demanded. After watching McDormand’s call to action, Michael B. Jordan added a policy involving inclusion riders in his own production company.
Michael B. Jordan says his company will adopt inclusion riders, the diversity effort championed by Frances McDormand in her Oscars speech https://t.co/BPNaqCOMrG
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 11, 2018
While this is one way to tackle a giant problem, the new rules have created groupings based on different positions in which a minority could work in a film. The groupings are defined as cast or narrative, production team or studio, access to the industry, and marketing. They define ‘minority’ in two separate ways: a minority could be a racial minority such as a person of color, or a minority could be an identity such as a woman or a person with disabilities.
With these specifications, if a film is about an underrepresented ethnic group that’s one category fulfilled. If it is also created by a certain amount of minority ethnic groups or the studio execs are minorities (in their definition), the film is eligible for Best Picture–as they only need to hit two categories minimum to be eligible.
While it may seem pretty strict, there will still be plenty of ways for a straight-white-man film to find its way to this category. If it doesn’t pass these requirements, it’s still eligible for any other category.
People are feeling conflicted about these new rules. They are thrilled that the Oscars want to make an effort to have more diversity and inclusion but they are also concerned that these specific requirements and percentages will not make any significant changes on or off screen.
I deleted my first tweet about the new rules for best movie OSCARS because I feel it was a poor analogy & misrepresented my viewpoint. I am 100% behind diversity inclusion & tolerance. I’m opposed to MANDATED ARBITRARY percentages relating to hiring human beings in any business.
— Kirstie Alley (@kirstiealley) September 9, 2020
The real question will be answered over time: will these regulations do enough to push for new stories on screen? We hope that this step toward inclusion will help the entertainment industry open more doors and begin encouraging equality.