According to Variety.com, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has made a concrete push for diversity, sending membership invitations to 322 individuals, including a healthy number of people who, if they accept, can help change the organization’s primarily white male demographics.
Among the invitees are “Selma” actor David Oyelowo, “Belle” and “Beyond the Lights” actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw, actor Kevin Hart, “Set It Off” and “Italian Job” director F. Gary Gray, “Best Man” director Malcolm D. Lee, “Amazing Grace” and “Beat Street” director Stan Lathan, “Selma” casting director Aisha Coley, Dreamworks executive Mellody Hobson, and “Frozen” animator Marlon West. The Academy has been reaching out to women, foreign-born artists and people of various races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Accusations of Academy bigotry surfaced yet again in January when the list of Oscar nominees included Caucasians in all 20 acting categories, and few women or racial minorities among the other categories. Director Ava DuVernay and actor Oyelowo of “Selma” had seemed like strong contenders, giving many people hopes of breakthroughs. After initial anger at the Academy, activists began to shift their protests to industry hiring practices.
The Academy last year sent 271 invitations, with 276 in 2013. For the years between 2004 and 2012, the average was 133. There is no guarantee that all will join, but it’s rare for people to decline. The Academy board voted on the list Tuesday, after recommendations from its membership committee.
CEO Dawn Hudson and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs have been pushing to broaden the organization’s makeup. Last year, Boone Isaacs told Variety that the 2014 new-member list “is a continuation of an initiative to bring in new voices. … The membership is becoming more and more a reflection of the world at large.”
Hudson and Boone Isaacs always stress that the outreach does not means a change in standards. Each branch has strict requirements on eligibility based on industry tenure and credits. As of the most recent tally for 2014 voting, the Academy had 6,124 voting members. The “new voices” clearly constitute a tiny fraction of the group. But AMPAS officials are hoping that it can help can make a difference.
And as June 24-July 2 balloting is under way for board members, exactly one-third of the board are women: 17 out of 42. But it could get closer to 50-50 parity with the new crop, which includes a number of racial minorities and women among this year’s board contenders.
For a full list of invitees, click here.
original article by Tim Gray; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson