The Academy Awards are by far the most well-known of annual movie awards, but relatively little is known about who decides the nominees and winners each year.
So who votes for the Oscars? That would be the large body known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has just announced a promise to double its minority and female members by 2020, part of an effort to have more inclusive contenders after the backlash to the lack of diversity this year.
There are more than 7,000 people in the Academy as of last year, when it offered invitations to 322 new members — in a push, ironically, to add more diverse faces like “Selma” star David Oyelowo to its ranks.
To get into the Academy, first of all, you have to work in film production, according to the organisation’s membership rules. So no press allowed, which makes the Academy Awards distinct from many annual awards groups.
And you don’t exactly just apply to AMPAS. A candidate has to be sponsored by two current members of the organisation’s branch which they hope to join.
The Academy has 17 branches ranging from acting, directing, and writing to producers and executives. The largest segment of members is made up of actors, giving them an outsize influence on what ultimately wins.
AMPAS doesn’t offer a complete list of its current members, but you can see the full list of 322 members who joined in 2015. They include actress Emma Stone, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, and Netflix content head Ted Sarandos.
The Board of Governors is the select group within the Academy that decides its overal vision and policies (and gives final approval on all new members), including the latest changes to boost diversity. The board includes, among others, president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who has been vocal about the need for more inclusiveness, and Kathleen Kennedy, producer of the Disney “Star Wars” movies.
Beyond just increasing the number of diverse members, the Academy is also putting tighter rules on membership so that inactive legacy members can lose their voting rights. The thinking goes that, with more new faces and fewer old, the Academy Awards will eventually honour a more diverse set of films and people that got snubbed this year, like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Concussion.”
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