Academy Announces ‘Sweeping' Changes to Diversify

The announcement comes during criticism and calls for an Oscars boycott after academy members nominated an all-white slate of actors for the second year in a row.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences plans what it calls a "sweeping series" of changes in an effort to make its voting members more diverse.

The film academy is pledging to double the number of female and minority members by 2020, and will immediately diversify its leadership by adding three new seats to its board of governors. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the changes Friday, following a weeklong storm of criticism and calls for an Oscars boycott after academy members nominated an all-white slate of actors for the second year in a row.

"The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up," said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. "These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."

Isaacs said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 51-member board of governors unanimously approved a series of reforms late Thursday to "begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."

Other changes include limiting members' voting status.

Beginning later this year, each new member's voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade.  In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award, according to the academy statement.

Those standards will apply retroactively to current members. The changes will not affect voting for this year's Oscars, according to  the Academy.

Reaction came swiftly in Hollywood.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who called for an Oscars boycott earlier this week, tweeted: "I would like to express my gratitude to the Academy, specifically Cheryl Boone Isaacs, for such a quick response in regard to the issue at hand. I look forward to the future."

Smith posted a video on Facebook announcing her plans to avoid the Oscar  telecast and ceremony. Husband Will Smith, who some thought might be nominated for his performance in the football drama "Concussion," said his decision to join his wife in a boycott was "deeply not about me."

Ava DuVernay, director of last year's best picture-nominee "Selma," tweeted that the changes were "one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color and women artists." She added: "Shame is a helluva motivator."

And director Rick Famuyiwa, whose films include "The Wood" and "Brown Sugar," commented: "The devil is in the details."

Over the course of the week since the nominations, various performers have weighed in on the  debate, including Viola Davis, who said the problem is not with the Academy,  but the studios that make decisions about which films to make.

On Monday, writer/director Spike Lee, who received an honorary Oscar in  November, blasted the Academy for the lack of black nominees over the past two  years.

"... How is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20  contenders under the actor category are white?" Lee wrote on his Instagram  page. "And let's not even get into the other branches. Forty white actors in  two years and no flava at all. We can't act?!"

With some small exceptions, this year's nominations for acting Oscars  are largely the same as those for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which are  usually a strong indicator of winners on Oscar night. SAG, however, nominated black actor Idris Elba for his supporting role  in "Beasts of No Nation," which was also nominated for outstanding ensemble  cast. SAG also gave an ensemble nomination to "Straight Outta Compton."

The Golden Globe Award acting nominations this year were also mostly  white, with Elba and Will Smith the only black nominees.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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