Oscars So Woke?: Academy Awards Change Best Picture Eligibility Rules to Push Representation

Best Picture winners ‘The Shape of Water’ (left) and ‘Parasite’ (right)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have announced a pretty big change-up when it comes to what boxes films will have to tick off to even be considered for the big Best Picture Oscar.

New representation and inclusion standards are being put forth as part of the Academy Aperture 2025 initiative, which the organisation implemented “to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the greater film community.”

Starting from the 96th Academy Awards in 2024, a feature film must have met two of four standards to be deemed eligible for Best Picture consideration. Among the standards is “On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives,” which includes ensuring “lead actors or supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group” and “the main storyline(s), theme or narrative of the film is centered on an underrepresented group(s)”; as well as “Creative Leadership and Project Team,” to push the hiring of those in “underrepresented groups.” We’ve placed the complete list of standards for you to check out below.


“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” said Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

ALSO CHECK OUT – 2020 Academy Awards: Complete List of Winners & Nominees

It’s a big move from the Academy to drive their initiative – and it will certainly be cause for controversy. While there’s no doubt that inclusion and representation are important, there’s debate on whether or not holding back a film from award recognition is the way to do it. There’s also the matter of whether these conditions could/should dictate how filmmaker’s tackle their narratives; pushing to ensure “at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group,” for example, could make casting a period-specific film such as Sam Mendes’ 1917… interesting.

And does AMPAS have the influence it believes it does? Considering less people are tuning in (last year’s Oscars hit an all-time low with US ratings) and studio giants like Disney are likely caring more about their bottom line than an Oscar accolade they can place on the poster, it’s safe to say there’s some doubt in that department.

Here are the new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility in the Best Picture category…

For the 96th Oscars (2024), a film must meet TWO out of FOUR of the following standards to be deemed eligible:

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
• Other 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

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
• Other 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

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

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.
• Women
• 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
​Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
• LGBTQ+
• People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing

All categories other than Best Picture will be held to their current eligibility requirements. Films in the specialty feature categories (Animated Feature Film, Documentary Feature, International Feature Film) submitted for Best Picture/General Entry consideration will be addressed separately.

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Guillermo, Founder and Manager of Screen Realm, lives and breathes all things screen and pop culture. He has over eight years' experience in the media landscape in a career that has encompassed television, radio, and the online space. When he's not working hard on Screen Realm, you can find him at a local Sydney cinema or catching up on his ever-growing list of must-watch TV shows. He's also started a video podcast with his wife, Cassandra. Find the LOUD OBSERVERS right HERE.