Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs: New Members Represent a ‘Major Step’ in Oscar Diversity

Cheryl Boone Isaacs Academy Diversity
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AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs on Wednesday said the Academy had been talking about a more inclusive membership for a long time, “and today represents a major step toward that goal of inclusion” with the announcement of a massive new class of Academy invitees.

The Academy has been under fire since Oscar nominations were announced in January; but Isaacs emphasized that the upside is that the membership got involved. “This organization, from the leadership to the rank-and-file — all 6,000 members — got engaged in the conversation. Because of that, we were able to invite a new group of voices who represent film today and are inclusive,” she told Variety.

The 683 new invitations, announced Wednesday, more than doubles the previous high, which was 322 last year. The new class of invitees are 46% female and 41% people of color.

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The members this year have been more active in suggesting new names, she said. “Every year, you sit in meetings and names come up and someone says ‘What, they’re not already a member of the Academy? (The public attention) has helped tremendously and I think that will continue.” In addition, she said some industry veterans have applied for membership after not even considering the idea for years. “By having that conversation out there, they became interested and applied.”

Isaacs said the stated goal of doubling the diversity within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences by the year 2020 is attainable.

“In the next four years, it’s important to finalize the goal that we set. The conversation is continuing. I think there is going to be a lot of positive energy that will pollinate and make more.” She also hopes the conversation will encourage the next generation, who had assumed they would never be considered for membership.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of speculation over the Academy’s statement that some members would be moved to emeritus status, i.e., retain their membership but lose voting rights. Isaacs declined to give an estimate of how many people would be affected, because “We’re still working this out. The key word is relevancy.” Decisions will be made by mid-July, but there will be no public announcement of whose status will change.

Since the initial announcement, AMPAS issued several clarifications about the matter, including an emphasis that everyone will have the right to appeal. Insiders have estimated that only a small percentage of the members will be affected; the goal is to weed out people who joined the Academy years ago but then ended their film career, for whatever reason.

As for the accusation that this was an age issue, Isaacs said firmly, “It has never been about age.” She pointed out that the age range of new invitees ranged from 24 to 91.

As the size of membership grows, some veterans have feared that it will water down the power of their vote.

“What does ‘water down’ mean?” asked Isaacs. “We’re talking about people who are very skilled, and who are involved the art form. Our industry is growing and blossoming and we want to make sure we’re including this talent in the discussion.”

When the #OscarsSoWhite controversy erupted in January 2015 and then again this past January, the Academy declined to point fingers. However, most industry people agreed that the problem did not originate with the Academy, but with the film industry, which has failed to develop and greenlight films that reflect the changes in the world — and in audiences.

On Wednesday, Boone Isaacs repeated that the Academy intends to not only reflect the industry as it is, but as it should be. “We were not going to wait for others. We had been looking at this organization for a long time and we recognized changes need to be made; one of them was more inclusion. Today represents a major step toward that goal of inclusion. The major support of the board and the membership has been the key. We were happy that the conversation took off around town and globally; people became engaged. Everybody wanted to be part of that conversation and to see more inclusion in this mass-entertainment media we represent.”

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  1. Lisa says:

    The comment ‘watered down’ is so blatantly racist annd sexist. It shows that the voting is squewed toward Whit Male privilege and White Male films. If there are 3 films of White Male privilege nominated and 1 nominated of minority or female disadvantage, these guys are basically saying it is unfair that the minorities and women even have an opportunity to vote for that 1 disadvantaged film. This is why, folks, any film other than that of White Male privilege is hardly made.
    Wake up. The ‘water down’ comment just showed the White Male privilege hand.

  2. Steven James Tingus says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, there are no apparent entertainment industry members with a visible disability on the list. Hence, disability left out of the diversity and inclusion effort by AMPAS.

  3. Tomas Agusto Mivergara says:

    It means nothing if all productions are still making the same movies and TV shows casting and hiring the same players every year. Watch #OSCARSUPERWHITE this coming award season.

  4. thorinoakenshield6914@gmail.com says:

    If they cared about “Diversity” that much they would lobby for the Jewish Studio System to change i.e Blacks, Asians,Whites etc to run the Major studios – don’t hold your breath though, as this decision is nothing but Damage Limitation!

  5. We’ll keep that in mind Cheryl. Question…how does it feel to be a hypocrite? Population of minority groups in this country is, combined, roughly 23% (I’m accounting for “White Latinas” being added to the Caucasian population and making it 77%). So now, irony, you’re trying to make the minority group of people take up, what were you hoping for, 50%. That sounds a lot like racism and discrimination doesn’t it? ;) But that would be having to point out an Academy whose movies seem to only revolve around fucked up people with anger issues, poor people, evil business men, and so on. I haven’t see a good film about actual society at that award show for years. I remember movies that were about people in their every day lives and a journey was created from a collision. Every thing these people do is to make sure to only point out unusual or “exceptional”. But it’s just a different perception of life that these morons forced everyone. WE have to feel sorry for people! People are not victims and I’m tired of every story being about a “poor me” or “poor them” schtick! To hell with this ignorant people…God the irony in calling them that. But as the Academy Awards continue to drop in ratings and Cheryl here seems to be ignorant to her own corrupt political power (The film industry is like it’s own political party now who only worry about special interests), I frankly just want the AA’s to be done with. They are boring, predictable, they ignore nearly any film that DOES in fact relate to people. And these idiots are so blind to the real world. Anyone remember “Zero Dark Thirty”? A masterpiece really. But because it showed agents using torture (You know, like in real life), they condemned it! They condemned reality! Fucking children! No more Oscars. It’s not about the best anymore. It’s about being too much of a coward to admit you’re wrong about this and picking safe choices and giving it to only people who are, let’s face it, paid for to get their awards. It’s been documented, it’s been shown. The day of great film is over…for now. It will return once Isaacs and all these backwards thinking children are booted out.

  6. Sonny Skyhawk says:

    To all the Yay & Naysayers out there, give me a break, better yet, give the Academy a break ! No one knows how this is all going to play out, but we do know that change is on the horizon, and the Academy is taking the lead. Be optimistic, change is good. Think POSITIVE.

  7. Isabelle Adjani says:

    More PC crap…

  8. Stewart White says:

    Do you honestly believe that Hollywood is racist? No people are more committed to the display of diversity than these liberal- minded, apologists, who will make money at any cost. They’re not concerned about reality, just political correctness and earnings. Besides, aren’t there plenty of award shows for minorities ( BET,etc.). Then again, it’s just Hollywood. They’re pretty self absorbed.
    ,

    • thorinoakenshield6914@gmail.com says:

      Yes, it is Racist, the Jews run all the Studios and push everything positive to Jewish Interests – never anything negative about Jews!

  9. AC_Counts says:

    This isn’t a victory for diversity. This is a victory for foreign filmmakers. For whatever reason, the news outlets are looking a ethnic nominee names and overlooking that 60% to 70% of them are based overseas.

    They seem to be counting Europeans from Spain, as well as filmmakers living in Asia and South America, as minorities in America.

    If the Academy opted to invite lots of international filmmakers (which is their prerogative) and only a tiny sliver of American minorities, that’s a discussion as well. It’s not quite right to claim this as a victory for diversity in Hollywood if it just means more opportunities for Hollywood’s foreign counterparts.

  10. CelluloidFan35mm says:

    As a person of color myself, this is just a flat out embarrassment on so many levels, it’s deplorable.
    Now, there will be people out there that will question whether the nominations are based on merit or color/gender.
    The Oscars are now a high school popularity contest and a bigger joke than it was before.

    • Chase says:

      What an odd comment. It’s not like the credits of any of these people are secret. They are professionals with a body of work you can see. You think because they come from under represented groups they are unable to judge merit? As contending, then later nominated films and performances are out there for all to see I doubt there will be any questions. The GP can see and judge for themselves. People always question the merit if a few nominees every year so to put it on these new members is silly.

  11. Nanny Mo says:

    All I see is a racist and it’s so sad because the Academy was the one place where America always showed that talent could win over gender and race. But leave it to Isaacs to say, “No, some people just aren’t talented enough and need an extra leg’s up to be “fair” in our eyes.” It’s so sad to see this and the fact that she has no shame is shameful in the extreme.

    • Get Real says:

      This isn’t about ‘fairness’ or getting a ‘legs up.’ Not at all. This is about being realistic and representing the entire pool of “talent” out there. The Academy cannot maintain its limited membership of mostly old, decrepit, out-of-touch white guys like you, Nanny Mo. The Academy, along with the rest of the world, has to keep up with the times and be inclusive. There’s too much great talent from all races and backgrounds to ignore.

      • Martin Pal says:

        You mean old out of touch white guys like Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. jackson, Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Danny Glover, Louis Gossett Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Clive Davis…shall we get rid of all these oldies, too? So stop with the old white guy meme. It’s tiring. Get Real indeed.

      • Edgar Burroughs says:

        The entire talent pool is represented. This is actually a step in the other direction, promoting films which only resonate with a small portion of the population. The academy is out of touch? The box office suggests the academy has an idea what people want. It also suggests what they don’t want is “diversity.” Great talent always finds its way to the masses. It seems the “white guys” are able to connect with more people. Maybe “diversity” is what is truly holding back groups which think they are unrepresented?

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