In the past few years, many people have been saying that the Oscars aren’t diverse enough. That was mostly true at this year’s awards: there was only one non-white actor nominated for this year’s Best Actor award. And the Best Director award contains no women – many have asked why Greta Gerwig wasn’t nominated for her film Little Women.
So, what’s the solution to this problem? Nominate more women and ethnic minorities for awards just for the sake of it? No. The problem with the Oscars is the system used for voting and the people allowed to vote for the nominations and winners.
Currently, the only way for ordinary people (who they call “Members-at-Large” on their website) to join the Oscars voting panel is to:
- have been actively engaged for the past 8 years in the theatrical motion picture arts and sciences in a key creative position for which the Academy has no branch, and/or
- have a minimum of 8 years experience as a stunt coordinator, serving as a lead- credited stunt coordinator on at least 8 theatrical feature films of a caliber which reflect the high standards of the Academy, or
- have served in one of the following positions for 5 consecutive years:
- Head of Physical Production
- Head of Visual Effects Production
- Head of Post-Production
- Chief Technical Officer, or
- have made scientific and/or technological contributions which produced leading creative tools and/or systems for the crafts involved in the creation of the theatrical motion picture experience, or
- have had direct involvement in the last 8 years, not solely in an administrative position, in the preservation and/or restoration of legacy and current content of the moving image and/or recorded sound, or
- have, in the judgement of 2/3 of the Members-at-Large Executive Committee, achieved unique distinction, earned special merit, or made an outstanding contribution to the art or science of motion pictures.
So, in a nutshell, you have to have worked in the film industry for at least 8 years to even be considered for membership. And this is true for the other membership categories as well.
The voting process
There are also problems in the way that the voting is carried out. Film companies spend millions on “For Your Consideration” campaigns, which are basically marketing campaigns. The film companies send DVDs to those who can vote and throw parties where voters can meet celebrities with the aim that they will vote for that particular film to be nominated for or given an award.
Here’s a video that explains it in more detail:
So, what are the solutions to these two problems?
Change the system to allow more people to join
A solution that I think is worth a shot is allowing more people, whether they are experienced in the world of film or not, to become Academy Award members. The cost of membership and the perks of membership should be similar to that of the Conservative and Labour parties here in the UK: you pay a (probably yearly, if not monthly) fee of around $20 – $40 and, in return, you can both vote for the nominations and the winners of all Oscar awards. This would solve the diversity problem as it would allow anyone who wanted to and could afford it to join, meaning there is a wide range of diversity.
Oh, and you can get a seat at the Oscar Award Ceremony if you really wanted to (first-come-first-serve, of course.)
The Oscars need to change – or else they face becoming boring, tired and irrelevant.