In just two paragraphs this morning, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences found a way to shake up the process for the 94th Academy Awards.
The news comes as part of the equity and inclusion initiative, Academy Aperture 2025. It’s the newest phase in their ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the industry and increase representation within the membership and film community. While today’s press release focuses on the Oscars, governance, membership, and workplace culture, the biggest news for the average film goer concerns that of the Oscars.
“While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend—and continue to examine—our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.”
“Through the dedication, focus, and concerted effort of our Board of Governors and members on the branch executive committees, the Academy has surpassed the goals of our A2020 initiative. But to truly meet this moment, we must recognize how much more needs to be done, and we must listen, learn, embrace the challenge, and hold ourselves and our community accountable,” said Academy President David Rubin. “Academy leadership and our Board are committed to ensuring that we continue to weave equity and inclusion into the fabric of every Academy initiative, committee, program and event.”
In terms of governance and membership, the current Board of Governors participated in unconscious bias training in January. In going forward, this training will be mandatory for all governors, branch executive committee members, and staff on an annual basis. The entire 9,000+ membership will also receive an opportunity to participate in training, too.
There were other announcements in their press release but the following will likely have the biggest impact in terms of announcements.
The Academy will encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the film community. To ensure more diverse representation, and in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the Academy will create a task force of industry leaders, appointed by David Rubin and that will include governor and A2020 Committee chair DeVon Franklin, to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020. Eligibility for films in consideration for the 93rd Academy Awards (2020) will not be impacted.
Beginning with the 94th Academy Awards (2021), the Best Picture category will be set at 10 nominees, rather than a fluctuating number of nominations from year to year. The Academy will also implement a quarterly viewing process through the Academy Screening Room, the streaming site for Academy members, also starting with the 94th Academy Awards. By making it possible for members to view films released year-round, the Academy will broaden each film’s exposure, level the playing field, and ensure all eligible films can be seen by voting members.
It remains to be seen just how the awards season will change. But from just reading into these two paragraphs, it’s likely that studios won’t rush everything out at the end of the year. For far too long, awards voters have gotten a slew of screeners (physical and digital) sent in the final two months of the year. What I hope this means is that those screeners will be coming throughout the year. I hope the same applies for awards screenings. Instead of everything set up mainly in November, such screenings should be coming all year long.
As a voter, the question is going to be how will films stay fresh in one’s head? It’s possible that this means the studios send out their typical awards swag at the end of the year. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. For now, it’s nice to know that the Oscars will have a set number of nominees. It honestly should have stayed at 10 nominees the entire time. This would have boded well for films like If Beale Street Could Talk and The Big Sick.