Last fall, the Oscars updated its requirements for best-picture hopefuls come 2024 in the name of diversity and faced cheers and jeers from awards-watchers on Twitter. But how will it really work?
Films will need to meet only two out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ four diversity standards, which include requirements spanning onscreen performers and behind-the-scenes production staff. To pass the standards, people of color don’t have to necessarily appear in prominent roles onscreen – but if that’s the case, they would have tohave roles in several different areas behind the scenes.
Franklin Leonard, creator of The Black List, an annual survey of the most-admired unproduced screenplays in the film industry, says the standards are not difficult to meet. “You have to be almost making an effort to not meet them,” he says. At the time of the announcement in September 2020, Leonard wrote on Twitter two ways one could view the academy’s new standards. On the one hand, he said, some could view the new requirementsas a mild statement suggesting producers and distributors simply “engage with content that’s not made by and about solely white straight cis men.”
Or, he noted, the new rules for best picture could be interpretedas a “slightly stronger statement that you can’t be a corporate citizen in good industry standing without doing the absolute barest minimum to ensure that there’s SOME diverse talent below the line and at your company coming through the pipeline.”His points crystallize the key question at hand: What will these standards actually accomplish? Experts say time will tell to see whether the standards – and other efforts across Hollywood – will lead to actual, meaningful inclusion. Melissa Silverstein, founder of the website Women and Hollywood, agrees that the standards can be met easily. For example, women often hold titles in makeup, hairstyling and costume design (though employing white women alone won’t help a film meet the standards). Requiring behind-the-scenes representation across a breadth of miscellaneous categories like these, she says, is different from requiring it in cinematography.