The Oscars' Best Picture 'Inclusion Requirements' Turn Diversity Into a Checklist

Illustration for article titled The Oscars Best Picture Inclusion Requirements Turn Diversity Into a Checklist
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, haunted by the not-so-distant memory of #OscarsSoWhite, announced in June that it would institute “a diversity component to the Oscar race,” the New York Times reported. On Tuesday, those inclusion requirements were announced: the Academy has developed a checklist to make sure they’re not being racist. Nothing says representation more than depressing whole identities into circles to bubble in, right?

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According to Vanity Fair, the Oscars’ diversity checklist will begin implementation in 2024 and, as of today, will only apply to contenders in the Best Picture category. Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Animated Short Film, and Live Action Short Film are also being considered, but apparently it’s asking too much to announce that now.

The new guidelines contain criteria within the overall criteria, so each film must satisfy at least two of the following categories. First:

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, or another 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

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Okay. Seems fine. Category two:

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, or anther 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.

The Academy clearly wants to ensure diversity happens behind the screen, which is good and noble, but it wants to accomplish this by hitting a quota that treats people like nothing more than a bar to meet. It really shouldn’t be hard for Hollywood productions to simply hire a broad range of people, and yet, it is.

Onto Category 3:

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

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And lastly:

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.

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Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson released a statement alongside these new metrics: “We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.” Spoken like some white people who totally know how to stop making the Oscars so white!

Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

I am waiting for the list of Past Big Movies that would hit or miss this criteria. For example, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” = no. “The Great Escape” = no. Any Hitchcock = probably not.

“Lawrence of Arabia” = maybe yes, with Omar Sharif as an A1 criteria. Any Omar Sharif movie is half-way there. Or for that matter, Rami Malek. Hire Rami Malek and your half-way there to points mean prizes. (that SNL Black Jeopardy skit where only “Who is Rami Malek” who can play any role.)

“An American in Paris” no. Singing in the Rain” = half-way to yes, because of Betty Comden.

Rock Hudson movies = also half-way there. Hey, he was gay, although it was not widely known at the time.

That said, my humble opinion is that we will be seeing a lot of C+D criteria movies.