Oscars introduce new best picture guidelines to improve diversity

The Oscars has introduced a new set of guidelines for its most prestigious award, best picture.

The rules mean that films applying for the category will soon have to meet certain diversity standards, in a bid to improve representation on and off screen and more accurately reflect the movie-going audience.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faced criticism in 2015, when the #OscarsSoWhite movement highlighted a lack of black and Asian actors nominated for the film industry’s top awards.

Change starts now. We’ve announced new representation and inclusion standards for Best Picture eligibility, beginning with the 96th #Oscars. Read more here: https://t.co/qdxtlZIVKbpic.twitter.com/hR6c2jb5LM

— The Academy (@TheAcademy) September 9, 2020

It faced similar criticism when this year’s nominees were announced, with just one black star, British actress Cynthia Erivo, shortlisted in the acting categories.

And no women and only one non-white director, South Korea‘s Bong Joon-ho, featured in the directing category. He went on to win, as Parasite also became the first foreign language film to win best picture.

The new guidelines cover four areas: on-screen representation and storyline, creative leadership and crew, apprenticeships and training, and audience development.

A film must meet at least two of the four standards to be eligible for the best picture category, but the rules will not be enforced until 2024, meaning that the 2025 winner of the category will be the first to have had to comply.

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Movies applying in 2022 and 2023 will supply a confidential “Academy inclusion standards form” as part of their application.

The new standards have been created from a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards, used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA).

The BAFTAs also came under fire over lack of diversity in this year’s awards, with the nominees in the main acting categories all white and no women up for best director or best film.

The anatomy of an Oscar winner

The anatomy of an Oscar winner

Hollywood has long been known as a straight, white boys’ club where the thorny issue of diversity has always been a problem.

Eligibility criteria for all other Oscar categories will remain unchanged.

The move is part of a wider Academy initiative to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the larger film community by 2025.

Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said they believe the new standards “will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Chair of the BAFTA Film Committee, Marc Samuelson, said they were “delighted” about the introduction of the new rules, adding that BAFTA hope to introduce universal diversity standards in all its film categories by 2024.

Chadwick Boseman arrives at the premiere of the new Marvel superhero film 'Black Panther' in London in 2018
Image:Black Panther made history in 2019, when black artists won in in the costume and production design category
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Last year, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences invited 819 stars, directors and other industry experts to join its voting body in a bid to diversify its members.

The new batch of invitees were made up of 36% people of colour and 45% women.

Actresses including Cynthia Erivo, Ana De Armas, Eva Longoria and Awkwafina all made the list, alongside several stars from Parasite.

Next year’s Oscars will take place on Sunday 25 April 2021, two months later than usual.

The Academy’s new best picture guidelines can be found here.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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