The Academy is Making Changes

A commonality throughout 2020 is the theme of upheaval and change. Many of the systems and institutions that were industry staples are now nonexistent or reforming themselves for the better. As we have discussed, the entertainment industry is trying to adapt as quickly as possible, considering the world is holding it accountable. So far, we have seen production heads resign, tv shows canceled, and much more. The industry still has a long road ahead of itself, but significant changes are being made. This past week, Regina King made her directorial debut at Venice Film Festival with One Night in Miami and made history as the first black female director selected to be in the festival. Another change milestone happened this week: the Academy announced shocking new rules that will change the future of the film industry forever.
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The Academy

This past week, the Academy announced new rules regarding eligibility for the Best Picture category. For a nomination, each film must meet two of the following categories which follow:

The Academy

Standard A: On-Screen Representation, Themes & Narratives – Must achieve at least one criteria below:
A1: At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
A2: At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups. 
–   Women, Racial/ Ethnic Group, LGBTQ+, People with cognitive or physical disabilities who are deaf or hard of hearing.
A3: The main storyline(s), theme, or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
Standard B: Creative Leadership and Project Team – Must achieve at least one criteria below:
B1: At least two major creative leadership positions and department heads must come from underrepresented groups.
B2: At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding PA’s) must come from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
B3: At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following groups:
–   Women, Racial/ Ethnic Group, LGBTQ+, People with cognitive or physical disabilities who are deaf or hard of hearing
Standard C: Industry Access and Opportunities – Must achieve both criteria below:
C1: The film’s distribution or financing company has paid internships/ apprenticeships for underrepresented groups.
C2: The film’s production, distribution, and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from underrepresented groups.
 Standard D: Representation in Marketing, Publicity, and Distribution
D1: The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.

What Causes This?

Although these rules will not go into full effect until 2024, they come as a shock as the Academy has long left the “progressive changes” regarding a need for inclusivity to the industry itself. However, as time as shown, that approach was insufficient to bring about change. Awards conferred by the Academy and other institutions are the influencers of the film industry. For many years, people have said “#OscarsSoWhite” but their criticism was met with silence or untimely self-deprecating humor from white comedian hosts of said awards.

USC Annenberg

But with accountability culture on the rise and pressure from their members, time was up and the Academy decided that it was time to take initiative. The move has prompted praise from many corners as a much-needed step towards films reflecting their audiences. Others, unfortunately, have cried this is “too far,” stating that Hollywood is focusing too much on being “politically correct.”  Many counter that the argument over political correctness is a cover for wanting to keep Hollywood exclusive and fear that letting more people “in” will take away their jobs. The debate continues.

In 2019, USC Annenberg conducted a study that examined 57,629 characters in the top 1,300 movies from 2007 to 2019. The study was conducted to get a pulse on where movies stood in terms of diversity and inclusion. The results were more than disappointing. The research revealed that the films barely reflected the world their audiences live in.  If diverse characters were present, they were rarely main characters or supporting characters of significance without stereotypical tropes. For example, of the 100 top films of 2019, just 2.3% of characters were shown with a disability, a number that has stayed consistent over the last five years. For women and underrepresented ethnic groups, the numbers have only seen a slight increase as well.

Why Representation Matters?

It seems illogical and short-sighted to create films that do not reflect their audience. While everyone enters the film industry for different reasons, we all want to inspire our viewers. Part of that experience is providing representation on and offscreen.  Including women and professionals of color behind the scenes often results in well-rounded characters from a variety of backgrounds that are not just tropes. Including diverse crew on set also helps to create a more authentic with inclusive narrative with relatable characters. We have heard countless from individuals who have “held their tongues” after something offensive was said on set, in fear of losing their job or being blacklisted. For too long, the film industry has been white male-dominated and driven.  The time has come for change. 

Courtesy of OWN

Which brings us back to the Academy. While much more progress is needed, the Academy’s bold steps and stringent rules in favor of inclusivity are monumental. The Oscars are regarded as the highest form of recognition for filmmakers. While the Academy’s history is riddled with homogenous recognition of mostly white men, this week it took a giant step toward debunking that belief. 

Film Connx understands how important increased parity and diversity is to the entertainment industry, and to society. This week we applaud the Oscars for modeling the way forward.

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