Os­cars’ push for di­ver­sity

Os­cars or­ga­ni­za­tion in­vites 322 peo­ple to join in ef­fort to di­ver­sify

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Re­becca Kee­gan

Long de­scribed as too old and too white, the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences is adding a large and di­verse group of new mem­bers.

Ac­tors David Oyelowo, Daniel Rad­cliffe and Emma Stone and di­rec­tor Justin Lin were among an un­usu­ally large and de­mo­graph­i­cally broad group in­vited to join the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences this week.

The academy added 322 new mem­bers, its largest class ever, con­tin­u­ing an ef­fort to di­ver­sify the pri­mar­ily white, older, male group. The class of 2015 brings the academy mem­ber­ship to more than 7,000.

“This or­ga­ni­za­tion is very much com­mit­ted to a nor­mal­iza­tion of our mem­ber­ship to rep­re­sent both the in­dus­try and the coun­try as a whole,” said academy Pres­i­dent Ch­eryl Boone Isaacs in an in­ter­view Fri­day. “For a lit­tle bit here we had a quota sys­tem. ... We thought we were miss­ing out on tal­ented folks from all dif­fer­ent ar­eas. We lifted that, and we have seen an in­crease in gen­der, color, age, na­tion­al­ity — all goals we set for our­selves, to be more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of our au­di­ence.”

The di­ver­sity push fol­lows a pe­riod in which the academy has come un­der fire for the ho­mo­gene­ity of its taste, as well as its mem­ber­ship. In Jan­uary, all 20 of the group’s nom­i­nees for the lead ac­tor Os­car were white. The omis­sion of any mi­nor­ity ac­tors — no­tably “Selma’s” Oyelowo — inspired the Twit­ter trend­ing hash­tag # Os­carsSoWhite.

“Ev­ery year there are per­son­ally men and women who I’m sur­prised they didn’t get a nom­i­na­tion,” said Boone Isaacs, who was elected the academy’s first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent in 2013. “This year was no dif­fer­ent. I thought this was go­ing to be a much- dis­cussed topic, as it has been.”

The academy does not re­lease de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion on its mem­bers, but a Times

anal­y­sis of those asked to join this year found that at least 23% were peo­ple of color and at least 28% were women.

A 2012 Times study found that 94% of Os­car vot­ers were white and 77% were male; academy mem­bers were found to have a me­dian age of 62. When The Times up­dated the data in 2013, the academy was 93% white and 76% male.

“The academy sets the stan­dard for what is con­sid­ered art,” said Dar­nell Hunt, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy and di­rec­tor of the Ralph J. Bunche Cen­ter for African Amer­i­can Stud­ies at UCLA, in an in­ter­view Fri­day. “When you have an academy made up of white men, their sen­si­bil­i­ties set the tone for what’s con­sid­ered the high­est achieve­ment in f ilm. I would bet my life that when the vot­ing mem­ber­ship be­comes more di­verse, the win­ners will be­come more di­verse.”

This year’s class is 51 more than in 2014, when the academy ad­mit­ted 271 mem­bers to its ranks, and 176 more than in 2012.

Other new mem­bers in­clude ac­tors Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch (“The Im­i­ta­tion Game”), Kevin Hart (“The Wed­ding Ringer”) and Gugu Mbatha- Raw (“Belle”), di­rec­tors Mal­colm D. Lee (“The Best Man Hol­i­day”) and Lynn Shel­ton (“Lag­gies”) and pro­duc­ers Effie T. Brown (“Dear White Peo­ple”) and Bruna Pa­pan­drea (“Wild”).

His­tor­i­cally the academy has in­vited roughly the same num­ber of peo­ple to join as those who have died, re­tired or re­signed — a fac­tor that has made the or­ga­ni­za­tion slower to change. But the group soft­ened its mem­ber­ship quo­tas in 2013 as part of an over­all di­ver­sity ef­fort.

New mem­bers come from last year’s Os­car nom­i­nees, as well as those se­lected by in­di­vid­ual branches such as ed­i­tors and de­sign­ers.

The academy is also lim­ited in draw­ing from an in­dus­try that faces rep­re­sen­ta­tion is­sues of its own. Less than 5% of ma­jor stu­dio movies were di­rected by women last year, and the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union has asked three gov­ern­ment agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate the in­dus­try’s hir­ing prac­tices for ev­i­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The ex­panded mem­ber­ship comes at a cru­cial time for the academy f inan­cially — this week the L. A. City Coun­cil ap­proved its plans to build a $ 300- mil­lion mu­seum on the for­mer May Co. depart­ment store site ad­join­ing the L. A. County Mu­seum of Art. Con­struc­tion is sched­uled to be­gin this sum­mer on the Academy Mu­seum of Mo­tion Pic­tures.

“That was a ma­jor mile­stone for us,” Boone Isaacs said. “We are pick­ing up steam. We have se­cured more than $ 250 mil­lion in cash and pledges. That also speaks very well of the pro­ject.”

Women and mi­nori­ties are ex­pected to take on big­ger lead­er­ship roles at the academy as well, with many run­ning for seats on the 51mem­ber board of gover­nors, in­clud­ing “Selma” di­rec­tor Ava DuVer­nay, an African Amer­i­can woman. Ac­cord­ing to a bal­lot first pub­lished in the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter, 27 of 67 board can­di­dates are women and seven are mi­nori­ties. “All of the branches have re­ally stepped up this whole ini­tia­tive of in­clu­sion, of rec­og­niz­ing tal­ent, pe­riod,” Boone Isaacs said. “We’re see­ing move­ment in many dif­fer­ent ar­eas and this is one of them.”

Ge­naro Molina L. A. Times

DAVID OYELOWO, left, and Justin Lin were among those in­vited to join the mo­tion pic­ture academy.

Jay L. Clen­denin L. A. Times

Bob Cham­ber­lin L. A. Times

BONG JOON- HO di­rected “Snowpiercer.”

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

KEVIN HART starred in “Wed­ding Ringer.”

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