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Oscars-1199532583.jpg

What Do The Academy's Inclusion Rules Mean For The Oscars?

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 9, 2020 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 9, 2020 |


Oscars-1199532583.jpg

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a major rule change that could mean the Best Picture race will be more inclusive. Does this mean no more #OscarsSoWhite? No more smug White Savior narratives like Green Book walking off with the top prize?

Let’s get into it.

Last night, the Academy introduced representation and inclusion standards that must be met for a film to qualify for Best Picture. These rules would take effect in 2024, meaning they’d impact the 2025 Oscars ceremony. To qualify for that Best Picture race (or any following), a film must meet 2 of the 4 following qualifications:

STANDARD A: ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES To achieve Standard A, the film must meet ONE of the following criteria:

A1. Lead or significant supporting actors

At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

A2. General ensemble cast

At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

A3. Main storyline/subject matter

The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s).
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing


STANDARD B: CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet ONE of the criteria below:

B1. Creative leadership and department heads

At least two of the following creative leadership positions and department heads—Casting Director, Cinematographer, Composer, Costume Designer, Director, Editor, Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, Producer, Production Designer, Set Decorator, Sound, VFX Supervisor, Writer—are from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

At least one of those positions must belong to the following underrepresented racial or ethnic group:
• Asian
• Hispanic/Latinx
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity

B2. Other key roles

At least six other crew/team and technical positions (excluding Production Assistants) are from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. These positions include but are not limited to First AD, Gaffer, Script Supervisor, etc.

B3. Overall crew composition
At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing


STANDARD C: INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet BOTH criteria below:

C1. Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities

The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the following underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

The major studios/distributors are required to have substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups (must also include racial or ethnic groups) in most of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

The mini-major or independent studios/distributors must have a minimum of two apprentices/interns from the above underrepresented groups (at least one from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group) in at least one of the following departments: production/development, physical production, post-production, music, VFX, acquisitions, business affairs, distribution, marketing and publicity.

C2. Training opportunities and skills development (crew)

The film’s production, distribution and/or financing company offers training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development to people from the following underrepresented groups:
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

STANDARD D: AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:

D1. Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution


The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the following underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.
• Women
• Racial or ethnic group

Asian
Hispanic/Latinx
Black/African American
Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
Middle Eastern/North African
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
​Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

Essentially, this initiative is intended to encourage more hiring of those who are not cisgender, straight white men. Considering that’s the descriptor that fits a massive chunk of the Academy, this sounds like a pretty good adjustment! But reading the fine print, it’s unclear how much this will actually change things.

Let’s look at Green Book. Would it pass this inclusion test? It does Section A because Mahershala Ali co-starred. It could arguably pass A3 because the film centers on the racism and homophobia experienced by Ali’s character, though the focus is on how Viggo Mortensen’s White Savior protagonist feels about such bigotry. Green Book clears Section B as well. Betsy Heimann was the film’s costume designer and Selina van den Brink was its set decorator, while composer Kris Bowers is Black. Boom: Green Book could be a contender in the 2024 race for Best Picture.

A clear flaw in this initiative is that it only impacts the Best Picture race. This means we could see repeats of #OscarsSoWhite, where major categories like acting and directing are dominated by white people.

Consider this year. Bong Joon Ho’s South-Korean drama Parasite stunned Oscar watchers by winning Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Directing, and Best Picture, despite being a foreign-language film. However, fans of the film pointed to the irrationality that ALL this praise was won, yet NONE of the film’s ensemble cast scored an Oscar acting nod. In 2020, the acting race was comically white, even featuring Scarlett Johansson TWICE.

To understand how the 2020 Oscars would look different under these 2024 rules, we can only look to the Best Picture nominees: Parasite, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Ford V. Ferrari, and Joker. Which of these would not be eligible under the new rules?

This is actually hard to determine. 1917, Ford V. Ferrari and The Irishman appear to fail to meet the Section A requirements, as all are historical dramas centered on white straight men in environments full of more white straight men. They might meet Section B qualifications for behind-the-scenes representation. However, those are tricky to properly parse.

While each of these films features women in key behind-the-scenes roles, B1 notes one Head of Department must be nonwhite. This isn’t as easy to determine based on a name and a potentially photo-free IMDb profile. Then, B2 broadens the possibilities by accepting racial or ethnic diversity in other crew positions, like First AD, Gaffer, and Script Supervisor. Finally, B3 qualifies a film if 30% of the entire crew is female, non-white, LGBTQA+, or people with disabilities. It’s impossible to figure these stats based on the public info on these films, as is determining the make-up of the marketing, PR and distribution teams addressed in Section D. Because we don’t currently know what these percentages on BP nominees are, we can’t at present draw clear conclusions on how dramatic a shift this would be.

Nonetheless, detractors on Twitter are decrying the death of artistic expression and howling about how this initiative is bad because Political Correctness Gone Mad, etc. etc. However, these new rules do not indicate that films like those above cannot be eligible, just that their makers need to be mindful of inclusion behind the scenes if they want to be considered for Best Picture.

These rules aren’t so dramatic that we’d have a wildly different Oscars line-up. They do encourage producers to hire marginalized workers and create internships (Section C) that could be launchpads for the artists within those groups. This could create a shift in the make-up of Hollywood as a whole, providing opportunities that have long been offered chiefly to a pretty narrow demographic.

So, what does all this mean for the Oscars and Hollywood at large? It’s way too soon to say for certain. It could be simply a suave PR move intended to play well with a progressive press. It could be an earnest initiative aimed to normalize inclusive hiring practices in a way that’s encouraging instead of overwhelming. It will be a hot topic for years to come, but its true impact may not be realized until those who’ve gotten these proposed internships rise through the system for Oscar glory of their own.




Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.



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