After numerous Academy members have registered complaints about rule changes for membership, a post-mortem seems inevitable at Tuesday night’s board meeting. But changes to categories or other areas are unlikely: The agenda is procedural and “business as usual,” sources told Variety.
The changes were passed unanimously Jan. 21 and several board members, speaking to Variety under confidentiality, expressed enthusiasm for the results, despite complaints from non-board members.
One subject that could be on the agenda is how to implement membership changes. AMPAS has a policy of not revealing board meeting agendas, but discussion of changes to Oscar categories (e.g., the return to 10 best pictures) is not scheduled. The meeting had been set long ago to discuss other Academy business before the emergency meeting last week to discuss the fast-growing diversity controversy.
Many members of the Academy Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are hurt by what they perceive as accusations of racism and confused by the new rules. Some didn’t want to go on the record, citing the mocking of Michael Caine and Charlotte Rampling, or worrying about reprisal from potential employers, or from the Academy itself. “Frankly, I don’t want to lose my Oscar tickets,” said one.
The most vocal objections were from actors over the age of 50, who risk losing voting privileges if they haven’t worked consistently. One actress said, “It’s hard enough getting a job after 40. Now there’s even more pressure.” While TV provides occasional work, “movie jobs have dried up” for her demographic.
The Academy issued a FAQ seeking to clear up confusion about rule changes, but they were little comfort to members who feel the inevitable elimination of many voters is unfair. “Is this a purge?” asked one below-the-line worker. “I don’t quite understand the wording,” he said, questioning whether the new rules will exclude him or his friends.
In addition to opening up Academy membership to a more diverse pool of voters, some have recommended the Academy make further changes such as a return to the 10-contender best picture race, on the assumption that “Straight Outta Compton” or “Creed” could have made the cut. Any alterations to categories for the 2017 Oscars would likely follow the usual procedure: exploration by a committee, recommendations to the board, and then a vote in the summer.
Multiple higher-ups at the Academy, including board members, told Variety they are sympathetic to the pain of individual members, but feel anger is inevitable with a major change. “These changes are long overdue,” said one, “and we’ve been discussing them for a long time. We didn’t rush into anything. When most members digest these changes, we think they will be very supportive.”
It’s still unclear how many of the Academy’s 6,261 voters will be affected. When the Academy overhauled its membership in April 1970, Variety Archives reported that 497 out of 3,437 voters were affected, or 14%.
One mid-level studio exec told Variety, “I applaud the Academy for taking swift action. I’m sure members are frustrated they weren’t consulted, but we’ve been talking about this (diversity) for 50 years. The last thing we need is another discussion. We needed action.”