Film Academy Broadens Voting Pool After Oscars Criticism

Michael Cieply, New York Times, June 29, 2016

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited many more minorities and women to join on Wednesday as the first major step in reshaping its membership after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy this year.

The announcement of the unusually large new class–more than twice last year’s number–followed a January pledge by the academy to double its female and minority membership by 2020 after it failed to nominate any minority actors for an Oscar for the second year in a row.

By the academy’s count, 46 percent of this year’s 683 invitees are women, and 41 percent are minorities. Included were many of the stars and filmmakers who some felt were snubbed when the Oscar nominations were announced this year, including the director Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) and actors like Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”).

But the academy still has a long way to go to reach its goals, and the pace of new membership could be hard to sustain. Even if all of the new invitees join, minority membership would rise to 11 percent from 8 percent, and the percentage of women would increase to 27 percent from 25 percent.

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Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, the academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said she expected to see the expansive approach to membership continue until its stated aim of doubling the number of female and minority members is achieved, adding, “There’s no limit here.”

“We have a goal here and are going to continue to work as hard as we can to meet that goal,” Ms. Isaacs said.

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The sudden broadening of the film academy is just one step in a process that must accelerate if the group is to meet its goals. An analysis by The New York Times of the academy’s acting branch showed that unit, which had about 1,100 members last year, would have to admit about 80 actors a year, and three women for every man, to reach approximate gender parity by 2020.

About 70 actors were invited this year, roughly half of them women. Virtually everyone invited to join the academy in past years has accepted, but exact membership rolls are not made public.

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