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.
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 diversit within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences by the year 2020 is attainable.
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.”“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.