Oscar & Diversity: Academy President Talks About How to Bring Change

Academy Pres. Oscar Cheryl Boone Isaacs

At a Q&A luncheon Tuesday, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said the org hopes studio executives will expand their thinking in terms of diversity but stated, “The Academy has no power over Hollywood. We have nothing to do with hiring.”

She said many non-industry people believe the Academy controls decisions about greenlights, hiring and casting, but that’s in the hands of studios and agencies. “What we can do, however, is to get them to widen their normal stream of thought.” AMPAS is encouraging members to mentor and promote diverse workers within the industry — not hiring them because they’re a minority, but because they are good workers who just happen to be in a minority. She quoted recent Emmy winner Viola Davis as saying that the key is to get the same opportunities as everyone else.

The Q&A was for Town Hall Los Angeles, an ongoing series of meet-and-greets between newsmakers and L.A. business and community leaders. Moderating the session was Val Zavala, VP of news and public affairs at KCET, who cited a recent study showing that of 700 recent top-grossing films, only 11% had gender balance in its onscreen characters.

Boone Isaacs, who has been teaching for 12 years, pointed out that sometimes diversity problems start even before the entry level; despite the boom in college courses devoted to film and TV, “an issue for most film schools is lack of diversity.”

At the session, conducted at the City Club in downtown L.A., Boone Isaacs tried to dispel some misperceptions about the Academy by pointing out the breadth of its work; way beyond Oscars are its Margaret Herrick Library, the Student Academy Awards, fellowships and preservation programs, and many other initiatives.

Asked about the impact of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, slated to open in 2017, she said it will be good for the Miracle Mile, for the city as a whole and for the industry. “We are looking to immerse the visitor into the world of filmmaking, with all the work, technology and the glamour that it entails.” The challenge is to not make it seem like a “museum,” with artifacts from the past, but to make it about the present and the future, so that a museum-goer can say, “Wow, I didn’t know that.”

Though she applauded the boom in exhibition and distribution around the world, Boone Isaacs said Hollywood films are special to people everywhere, and the goal is “to get everybody to make most of their movies back here.” She added, “We are at the forefront.”

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  1. Randi says:

    I really don’t know why everyone is so upset about this, the people of color have the BET awards, how many white folks have been nominated on that show, also you got the BET TV station, they always show all black cast movies and a Miss Black Beauty Pageant. You guys even have a whole Black History Month all to yourselves, I don’t remember when the last White History Month was. And you can’t say oh well that’s all year long cause that is simply not true, there is also a Hispanic Month. So why is it OK for black folks to have these things all black but they get so upset just because no black actor was nominated. I just don’t get it.

  2. Sandra De La Cruz says:

    Check this out….is there a census as to who actually attends and buys tickets for what specific movies? Just sayin’….a day without a Mexican had some sort of impact albeit fictitious. Remember this …lettuce, grapes and Si Se Puede.

  3. Shane Imwalle says:

    You have to be white, gay and/or Jewish to make it in Hollywood and if you can check off more than one of those boxes, you don’t even have to have any talent. They handed Andy Cohen his own show the second he walked off the plane at LAX.

  4. Jackie Craig says:

    This is a travesty! Performances by Will Smith and Idris Elba should have been in the running for best actor. However, once again the academy has ignored those performances. If this has nothing to do with race how do you explan the subpar performance from Sylvester Stalone. Ms. Boone Isaac comments regarding hiring practices makes no sense when minority performaces are still being ignored by the academy. Sounds like your standard token statements coming ‘Straight out of her mouth.’

  5. patricnasty says:

    It is obvious that “diversity” is nothing more than replacement casting in the name of political correctness.

    • Haley says:

      No, ‘patricnasty’, the replacement casting is already happening and the new movement is a correction
      of gross misrepresentations in movies. Why is Emma Stone cast in “Aloha” as a Chinese-Hawaiian ?
      Why is “Exodus” full of white people ? Why is the story of “Stonewall” again told through the perspective of a white male ? Why would a small film like “Tangerine” never be cast in Hollywood with real trans people ? Why does the majority of entertainment cater only to WASPs ?
      Because producers are old people who avoid risks and therefore only see one dominant group as an audience. Nobody else. But the times are changing, people have enough of the lies on screen and minorities want to see themselves represented in society. In all their ethnicities, races, gender, color and languages. Diversity as a movement is a necessary correction of an existing cultural bias that alienates a significant part of the public.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well stated. It’s not just about the right thing to do, and trying to correct for the gross misrepresentations of American society and demographics, but actual business needs. The closely-knit echo chamber in Hollywood seems to be even more resistant to change than the deep red flyover states they supposedly disdain, and they are leaving money on the table and ignoring opportunities.

        Hiring practices (unpaid/low paid entry level positions with the expectation to ‘network’ in fancy places) that favor those already connected, and people who don’t really need the money, just furthers the cycle – many of the decision makers havent even reached middle age, much less be ‘old’.

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