Best picture race to get a shake-up in 2024: Academy announces new diversity and inclusion standards

To become anointed best picture by the Academy Awards, films will have to meet new inclusion and diversity standards, starting in 2024.

On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility in the best picture category, which are “designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience,” according to a news release.

For the 96th Oscars in 2024, films vying for best picture must meet two out of four standards to be deemed eligible. 

The four standards dig into how films come to be, from the stories they tell to the executives who lead and market them while addressing gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and disability.

Standard A, for example, requires a film submitted for best picture to have at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors be from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups; OR have at least 30% of all actors in secondary and minor roles from underrepresented groups (including women); OR have a main storyline, theme or narrative centered on an underrepresented group.

But not all films submitted for best picture have to hit those targets. Standard B is focused on diversifying creative leadership and crew roles.

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Standard C is focused on industry access, requiring that the film provide paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities to underrepresented groups, or training opportunities and skills development for underrepresented crew.

Standard D requires a film’s marketing, publicity and distribution have multiple in-house senior executives from underrepresented groups.

Requiring future best-picture nominees to hit two of those four categories, the Academy believes, “will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry,” Academy president David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement.

The best picture award, which is handed out to the producers of a film, is the one category which every film academy member can vote for.

All other categories will be held to their current eligibility requirements.

Reaction to the new Oscars best-picture requirements was swift

Reaction on Twitter varied, with some decrying an age of political correctness and others thinking the new standards don’t go far enough.

Shortly after the announcement, Kirstie Alley pushed back against the reforms, calling the Academy’s announcement a “disgrace.”

“This is a disgrace to artists everywhere…can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his (expletive) paintings. You people have lost your minds. Control artists,control individual thought .. OSCAR ORWELL,” she tweeted.

Richard Grenell, former acting director of national intelligence, also panned the move, tweeting that “It’s no longer the Best Picture, it’s the Most Politically Correct Picture.”

There was plenty of rebuttal. “there are people… who are actually mad… about the oscars changes…???” user @SeymourHailz tweeted, adding a skeptical Rihanna gif. 

Uproxx senior entertainment writer Mike Ryan found plenty of wiggle room in the new rules. “I don’t think it goes near far enough? This seems like it would be hard not to qualify. Like REALLY go out of your way,” he tweeted.

Film editor Catherine Haight agreed. “Meeting two of those qualifications really isn’t hard. One can have an all cis white male cast with a cis white male director and still meet it with your marketing department and, let’s see, your hair & makeup department heads. Am I reading this wrong?” she tweeted.

In June, amid the national conversation about systemic racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, the Academy announced sweeping plans aimed at swiftly furthering its diversity and inclusion initiatives, including setting the best picture category at 10 nominees, rather than a fluctuating number, starting with the 2021 Oscars ceremony.

Additionally, the Academy said it would make it easier for voters to screen movies year-round, increasing the exposure of movies that don’t premiere in a traditional “awards season” window.

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The changes are a new phase of the organization’s ongoing efforts, known as “Academy Aperture 2025,” to tackle issues of equity and diversity within the Academy and the awards show.

The Oscars have long been criticized for failing to represent diverse actors, directors and behind-the-camera talent in its winners and nominees, which has been called out using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The organization has responded by extending membership to wider groups of filmmakers in the past few years. At this year’s ceremony, South Korean film “Parasite” became the first foreign-language film to win best picture, a milestone many saw as progress for the institution. However, that same night, Black British actress Cynthia Erivo was the lone person of color among 20 acting nominees.

Earlier this year, the Academy announced changes to eligibility for the 2021 Oscars related to the coronavirus pandemic. Movies that premiered on digital streaming platforms and didn’t receive a conventional release will be eligible for best picture and other categories at the 93rd Academy Awards, which have been pushed to April 25, 2021.

That’s a change from the usual theatrical qualifying run of at least seven consecutive days, though one caveat is that streaming movies in consideration would had to have a previously planned theatrical release, such as the “Trolls” sequel. 

Contributing: Brian Truitt and Kelly Lawler, The Associated Press

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