The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opened up Jan. 21 about changes that will be implemented to widen diversity within the Academy, but is now being met with backlash by veteran members whose status is being changed.
Following the initial Oscar nominations announcement, the Academy was accused of racism by some in the public, who began trending “#OscarsSoWhite.” It eventually led to a boycott of the Academy Awards by several celebrities.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”
Perhaps the most controversial new rule is one based on active status for members who have not been working in the industry for the last 10 years, moving them to emeritus status and denying them the right to vote in the awards ceremony.
Composed of almost 7,000 members, the Academy keeps its membership anonymous to prevent studios from lobbying for their films to the voters. Although no formal list has been produced, it is well known that many of the members may not be huge names, but have paved the way and set standards for filmmakers and animators.
Over the past month, members have thrown their anonymity to the wayside and released letters detailing their personal feelings and experiences regarding the changes.
“May I point out that as one of the female members in the short films and feature animation branch, I am also a minority,” said Nancy Beiman, professional animator in an open letter she penned to the academy. “Am I not contributing to the diversity of this organization? Women are shockingly under-represented in craft, technical and directorial nominations every year. Since when is it permissible to discriminate against one minority to right a perceived wrong to another?”
Many of the film veterans have retired and now feel these rules are the board blaming them for the lack of diversity, instead of placing blame on the studios that supplied the films to begin with.