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Academy makes changes

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has pushed through a bunch of changes to membership rules, less than a week after this year’s nominations again led to complaints about the lack of nominations for non-white actors.

The Academy noted that the “sweeping series of substantive changes” were achieved by “a unanimous vote “.

As with most knee-jerk reactions, the Academy’s was flawed, and there’s been some considerable massaging of both the message and the detail since the changes were announced over the weekend. The additional detail is helpful, but it’s better not to stand downwind of the language around the explanations.

Changes will address: the recruitment of new members; stripping some current members of voting rights; and giving new and current members more restricted voting rights.

However the message is massaged, the result of the changes will be to immediately remove voting rights from a large number of age 60+ white males, deemed to be the root of all that’s wrong with the Academy.

Going forward, new members’ voting status “will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade”. The definition of active will be interpreted generously, according to the Academy’s hastily-compiled FAQ.

Lifetime memberships will be conferred on those who “have won or been nominated for an Academy Award“ or those who complete three 10-year terms as voting members. The same rules will be applied to current members, with the Academy statement saying, “if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they (sic) can still qualify by meeting the other criteria”.

The statement is disingenuous at best. Current members who are deemed to have been inactive for 10 years cannot still qualify for lifetime membership. Either they have (previously and inadvertently) met the new standard, by dint of Oscar nomination or win, or they haven’t.

Since the announcement last week, the Academy has clarified that members who can prove they were active in each of three decades since being granted membership will receive lifetime memberships and retain voting rights.

The third part of the plan, to get more people who don’t look like this year’s Best Actor nominees into the Academy, will be an “ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity”. The Academy now has a goal of doubling the number of “women and diverse members” by 2020.

The Academy’s 51-member Board of Governors also decided to take a look at itself, although a considerably less rigorous one. One third of the current board is female including the president, who is also one of two governors ticking the diversity box. Quick to strip rights from existing members in order to help redress the balance of the membership, the board decided not to take such an approach with the people in the same room. It will achieve greater diversity by increasing the number of governors, by three.

The Academy’s full statement is here.