Academy goes on diverse membership drive

In total 928 new members from 59 countries, in its biggest diversity drive yet, have been invited to join the academy behind the Oscars.
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski (above), Tiffany Haddish and Amy Schumer.
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski (above), Tiffany Haddish and Amy Schumer. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski, Tiffany Haddish (above) and Amy Schumer.
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski, Tiffany Haddish (above) and Amy Schumer. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski, Tiffany Haddish and Amy Schumer (above).
Among the women invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are Christine Baranski, Tiffany Haddish and Amy Schumer (above). PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • The invitations have gone out to women such as actresses Jada Pinkett Smith, Christine Baranski, Amy Schumer and Ann Dowd, as well as comediennes Sarah Silverman and Tiffany Haddish.

About 30 per cent of the pool of potential new members are minorities, including film-makers like Hong Sang Soo from South Korea and Nanfu Wang from China.

The membership drive comes from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is opening its doors wider as it tries to end its days as an exclusive club primarily for white men.

The 91-year-old academy said on Monday that it would increase the Oscar voting pool to about 8,200 people, a new high, by inviting 928 film-industry professionals to become members.

As recently as a decade ago, the organisation limited invitations to as few as 115 people a year, contending that small classes kept the professional quality of members high.

By the academy's count, about 49 per cent of those invited this year are women.

Other notable invitees include Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and two nominees for best actor this year, Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet.

One name notably absent from the list is Kobe Bryant, who received an Academy Award in March for the animated short Dear Basketball.

Oscar winners are automatically considered for membership. But the academy's 54-member board, which holds ultimate say over new members, would have opened itself up to criticism if it had invited Bryant. He was accused of sexual assault in 2003, though the case was eventually dropped.

If all the invitations are accepted, female membership will rise to 31 per cent, up from 28 per cent, according to the academy.

Its membership came under intense scrutiny in 2016, when, for the second year in a row, it did not nominate any minority actors for the Oscars and overlooked films that focused on black characters for Best Picture nominations.

Embarrassed by the resulting #OscarsSoWhite outrage, academy leaders vowed to double female and minority membership by 2020.

But the manner in which it has expanded its ranks has rankled some members. Mr Bill Mechanic, a former 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios executive, resigned from the academy's board in April.

In his resignation letter, he wrote: "We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognising that this is the industry's problem far, far more than it is the academy's."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Academy goes on diverse membership drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe