Academy, Under Fire Over Diversity, Backtracks on Voting Eligibility

Academy, Under Fire Over Diversity, Backtracks on Voting Eligibility

As promised, the Academy Board of Governors voted—again— to put through changes intended to diversify the voting body.

They’re adding three new members, who unlike the other 51 governors, are not elected by the individual branches. Director Reginald Hudlin, who co-produced this year’s Oscars, writer Gregory Nava (“Frida”) and animator Jennifer Yuh Nelson (“Kung Fu Panda 2”) were confirmed by the current Board members for three-year terms, effective immediately.

On Tuesday the Academy also apologized, after receiving a protest letter from 25 members of Asian descent including Oscar-winning directors Frieda Lee Mock (“Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision”) and director Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), for Chris Rock’s “tone-deaf,” “tasteless and offensive” Asian joke on the February 28th Oscar telecast:  “The Academy appreciates the concerns stated, and regrets that any aspect of the Oscar telecast was offensive. We are committed to doing our best to ensure that material in future shows be more culturally sensitive.”

Six members were also added to board oversight committees. Actor Gael García Bernal (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”) will join the Awards and Events Committee, chaired by First Vice President Jeffrey Kurland. Cinematographer Amy Vincent (“Hustle & Flow”) is on the Preservation and History Committee, chaired by Vice President John Bailey. Producer Effie Brown (“Project Greenlight”) joins the Museum Committee, chaired by Vice President Kathleen Kennedy. Executives Marcus Hu (Strand Releasing) and animator Floyd Norman (“Monsters Inc.”) join the Education and Outreach Committee, chaired by Vice President Bill Kroyer.

Executive Vanessa Morrison (Fox Animation Studios) joins the Finance Committee, chaired by Treasurer Jim Gianopulos. Producer (“Beyond the Lights”) and Los Angeles Film Festival director Stephanie Allain joins the Membership and Administration Committee, chaired by Secretary Phil Robinson.

As for the thorny question of how to assess a member’s voting rights, the Board reaffirmed its January 21 resolution to make sure Academy voters are active in the motion picture industry. As Boone Isaacs had suggested to me, the Board agreed to let each branch’s executive committee determine specific criteria for active voters based on the guidelines established in January.

The Academy now defines active voters as:
1. Those who have worked in the motion picture industry in the last 10 years.
2. Those who have worked anytime during three 10-year periods whether consecutive or not— one thing the branches will decide is whether to measure those 30 years as before or after they joined the Academy, as the rules were first defined.
3. Members who have won or been nominated for an Oscar®.

Starting this spring, branch executive committees will meet every two years to review their members and determine any potential reclassifications. The committees also will adopt an appeals process for members who may lose their voting privileges. This gives a lot of power over who votes to the branch executive committee, who can be as tough or lenient as they choose in interpreting the rather vague guidelines.

READ MORE: The Academy Changes Membership Rules in Response to Oscar Nominations Controversy 

Among many Academy members not happy with the idea that many colleagues are being stripped of their hard-earned voting rights is Steven Spielberg, who told The Hollywood Reporter: “I’m also not 100 percent sure that taking votes away from Academy members who have paid their dues and maybe are retired now and have done great service — maybe they’ve not won a nomination, which would have given them immunity to the new rules, but they have served proudly and this is their industry, too — to strip their votes? I’m not 100 percent behind that.”

The Academy wants to make changes, and they have been aggressively inviting a younger, more diverse membership ever since CEO Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Isaacs have been in charge. They know the problem. They want to move the needle, but it has been going slowly. So now with this year’s new member invites they will dramatically step up the pace.

“I’m proud of the steps we have taken to increase diversity,” said Boone Isaacs. “However, we know there is more to do as we move forward to make this a more inclusive organization.”

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Comments

Veronica Dreyer

I agree with Mr. Spielberg.
Although there are definitely people in the Academy who should not be voting,there are fewer of them than you might imagine, and a blanket response like that suggested by the Academy will disenfranchise members who are still engaged and thoughtful (even if elderly) along with those who should be retired with thanks. And given the admitted difficulties that minority and female members of the film community have in finding work, the policy runs the risk of eliminating some of the very people the Academy is admirably trying to include.

Daniel

Well put, V.Dreyer.

Daniel

But it will still replace the old with the new. And the adage ‘The more things change…’, does not exactly apply in a new world where younger, braver commentators are showing challenges and successes of lives in every place around the world. Which only journalists and some documentarians did in the past. Those same that are being threatened with voting extinction. Now, the reigns taken by invigorated blood who know better what living in today’s world is and means. Compared to the mere observers who may only chair boards.

Academy Member

What about the Academy members who are working in television ~ are these talented members going to be culled from the herd because of lack of work opportunities in film?

julietrevino

What’s really annoying about this is that so much focus is on the Oscars when the real issue is diversity in Hollywood. I couldn’t care less who wins an Oscar. I do care that movies like Gods of Egypt can get away with casting mostly white actors.

Sonia

It might be a good idea for the Academy to add minorities to their pool of voters. However, I do not believe there were any validity to the cry of racism. They should have the balls to confront their accusers with proof, or rather a defense of the choices presented to them and the reasons why they made those choices.

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