If producers don’t comply, they won’t be able to enter their film in the most prestigious and potentially lucrative Oscar category, best picture.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wasn’t kidding about wanting the film industry to do better in terms of representation and inclusion.
On Tuesday (Sept. 8), the Academy announced strict new representation and inclusion standards. And, starting with the 96th annual Academy Awards in 2024, if producers don’t comply, they won’t be able to enter their film in the most prestigious and potentially lucrative Oscar category, best picture. That’ll get their attention!
Films will have to meet two of the following four standards to be deemed eligible for best picture: on-screen representation, themes and narratives; creative leadership and project team; industry access and opportunities; and audience development.
Producers can satisfy the requirement by showing involvement by any of four “underrepresented groups” — women; underrepresented racial or ethnic groups; LGBTQ+ individuals; and/or people with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing. (Whenever you see the phrase “underrepresented groups” in this story, it refers to this paragraph.)
The Academy defines underrepresented racial or ethnic groups as Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or other underrepresented race or ethnicity.
“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” said Academy president David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in a joint statement. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”
Academy governors DeVon Franklin and Jim Gianopulos headed a task force to develop the standards, which were inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) diversity standards used for certain funding eligibility in the U.K. and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) Awards. The Academy also consulted with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), as it presently does for Oscars eligibility.
All categories other than best picture will be held to current eligibility requirements.
Films in the specialty feature categories (animated feature film, documentary feature, international feature film) submitted for best picture and general entry consideration will be addressed separately.
These moves are part of the Academy Aperture 2025 initiative. The Academy describes that as the next phase of the Academy’s equity and inclusion initiative furthering the organization’s ongoing efforts to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.
The new standards will not affect the 93rd annual Academy Awards, which will be presented on April 25, 2021. For the 94th and 95th Academy Awards (in 2022 and 2023), submitting a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form will be required for Best Picture consideration. However, meeting inclusion thresholds will not be required for eligibility in the Best Picture category until the 96th Academy Awards in 2024. Starting that year, a film must meet two out of four of the following standards to be deemed eligible:
Standard A: On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives
To achieve Standard A, the film must meet one of the following three criteria:
1/Lead or significant supporting actors: At least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
2/General ensemble cast: At least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two of the aforementioned underrepresented groups.
3/Main storyline/subject matter: The main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on one of the aforementioned underrepresented group(s).
Standard B: Creative Leadership and Project Team
To achieve Standard B, the film must meet one of the three criteria below:
1/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 aforementioned underrepresented groups. At least one of those positions must belong to an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
2/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 (assistant director), gaffer, script supervisor, etc.
3/Overall crew composition: At least 30% of the film’s crew is from the aforementioned underrepresented groups.
Standard C: Industry Access and Opportunities
To achieve Standard C, the film must meet both of the two criteria below:
1/Paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities: The film’s distribution or financing company has paid apprenticeships or internships that are from the aforementioned underrepresented groups and satisfy the criteria below:
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.
2/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 aforementioned underrepresented groups.
Standard D: Audience Development
To achieve Standard D, the film must meet the criterion below:
Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution: The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from among the aforementioned underrepresented groups (must include individuals from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups) on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.